This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: October 15th, Pirates Derail the Big Train

A total of 11 former Pittsburgh Pirates have been born on this date, plus we have one major game of note.

Bob Harmon, Pitcher for the 1914-16 and 1918 Pirates. He came to the Pirates from the St Louis Cardinals as part of an eight-player deal in December of 1914. Harmon had a 68-81, 3.78 record in five seasons for the St Louis Cardinals. He had won 23 games in 1911, but in 1913, he went 8-21 and lead the league in hits allowed. Harmon had his best season in his first year with Pittsburgh, posting a 2.53 ERA, though that came with a 13-17 record. He was just as good the next year with a 2.50 ERA, but again he finished under .500, this time going 16-17 in 32 starts and five relief appearances. He also threw five shutouts. In 1916, Harmon split his time between starting and the bullpen, going 8-11, 2.81 in 172.2 innings. After sitting out the 1917 season due to a salary dispute, he pitched one more year for the Pirates before retiring. Harmon was 39-52, 2.60 in 88 starts and 33 relief appearances for the Pirates.

Mule Watson, pitcher for the 1920 Pirates. His time in Pittsburgh consisted of 11.1 innings over five relief appearances. He gave up runs in each of his first four appearances with the Pirates, including six runs over three innings on June 29th. He won a total of 50 games over a seven-year big league career, spending time with four different clubs. He finished his career as a member of the 1923-24 New York Giants, going to the World Series two years in a row. His final big league appearance came in game three of the 1924 series, where he recorded the final two outs to save a 6-4 win. Watson played pro ball for a total of 12 seasons, starting and finishing with three seasons in the minors. The Pirates acquired him via waivers on May 27, 1920 from the Boston Braves and lost him via waivers back to the Braves on July 8th. Shortly after returning to Boston, he threw a three-hit 1-0 shutout over Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Alexander and the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates never gave him a chance to start during his six weeks with the club. His real first name was John.

Mule Haas, outfielder for the 1925 Pirates. He played a bit part on the Pirates second World Series winning club, going 0-for-3 with a run scored in four late season games. Haas spent the next two years in the minors, then played 11 more seasons in the majors, helping the Philadelphia A’s to three straight World Series appearances (1929-31). He was a .292 career hitter in 1,168 games. He was known as one of the best bunters of his day, leading the league in sacrifice hits six times between 1930 and 1936. Somewhat surprisingly, he set career highs in sacrifice hits (40) in the same season (1929) he set highs in runs scored (115), hits (181), doubles (41), triples (9) and homers (16).

The Pirates signed him as an amateur in February of 1923 at 19 years old. He went to Spring Training with them, then was assigned to Williamsport of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .342 in 114 games. Haas was sent to Oklahoma City by the Pirates in 1924, then moved mid-season to Pittsfield of the Eastern League. He batted .293 in 136 games, with 50 extra-base hits. The Pirates sent Haas to Birmingham of the Southern Association in 1925, then recalled him on August 14th, after he hit .316 in 99 games. Despite being with the Pirates for 50 days, he played just four games, including his first and last days with the club. In between he pinch-ran on August 29th and pinch-hit on September 26th. His real first name was George.

Don Carlsen, pitcher for the 1951-52 Pirates. He had a 5.43 ERA in 53 innings for Pittsburgh. Carlsen had a 4.19 ERA in 43 innings in 1951, making six starts and one relief appearance. In 1952, he made five early season appearances (one start) allowing a total of 13 runs in ten innings. His only other big league experience was one inning for the 1948 Chicago Cubs. He played a total of eight seasons in pro ball, debuting in 1947. The Pirates traded him to Charleston of the South Atlantic League for catcher Bill Hall after the 1952 season. Carlsen nursed an arm injury for much of the 1950 season while still property of the Chicago Cubs, and then moved on to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League in early 1951. He was traded to New Orleans of the Southern Association in early May, then the Pirates purchased his contract on August 15th and had him starting game one of a doubleheader four days later. Carlsen won both of his first two starts, giving up three earned runs over 21 innings. He lost his next three decisions, giving up 18 runs over 22 innings in September.

Bill Henry, Pitcher for the 1968 Pirates. He was a lefty reliever for 16 years in the majors, pitching a total of 527 games for six different teams. Henry joined the Pirates in the middle of the 1968 season, coming over from the San Francisco Giants in June in a cash transaction. He pitched ten games for Pittsburgh, throwing a total of 16.2 innings. He had an 8.10 ERA and no record. Henry was released in early August and played just three more Major League games. At the time, he was the oldest player in the National League. Henry finished his career with a 46-50, 3.26 record and 90 saves. His best season came in 1959 when he had a 3.27 ERA over 134.1 innings for the Chicago Cubs. He led the NL with 65 games pitched that year. In 1960, while with the Cincinnati Reds, he was selected to both All-Star games back when they played two games per year. He pitched twice during the 1961 World Series. Henry was involved in a 1959 trade that also included Lee Walls and Frank Thomas, both of whom played for the Pirates earlier in their career.

Gail Henley, outfielder for the 1954 Pirates. His big league career consisted of 14 games and 30 at-bats for the Pirates. He batted .300 and homered in his first big league start. Henley played 14 seasons in the minors. He turns 92 years old today. Henley originally signed with the New York Giants in 1948 and he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in October of 1952. The Pirates acquired him the very next day in a three-for-one deal that sent Gus Bell to Cincinnati. Henley hit .290 with 47 extra-base hits for New Orleans of the Southern Association in 1953, then made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1954. Henley was starting every day until he ran into a wall and needed ten stitches to close a cut over his left eye. He missed a week, then had just two pinch-hitting appearances before being sent to the minors on May 12th, ending his big league career. Henley was bitter over the decision to send him down, saying that he was doing well and going all out for the team when he got injured and he never got a chance to play again after that.

Red Swanson, pitcher for the 1955-57 Pirates. He was done with his big league career by age 20, after debuting at 18 years old with the 1955 Pirates. Swanson played another six years in the minors after his final big league game. He had a 4.90 ERA in the majors (all spent with the Pirates), making 34 relief appearances and eight starts. Swanson signed as a bonus baby out of high school on August 23, 1955, meaning that he got a large bonus and had to spend his first two full years (from the date of signing) in the majors. He pitched just once over the final five weeks in 1955, then he was used nine times in relief in 1956. He was with the Pirates all season, with his appearances spread out over five months, and none after August 14th.  He pitched two innings over the final 110 games. Despite the limited use in 1956, Swanson made eight starts and 24 relief appearances in 1957, posting a 3.72 ERA in 72.2 innings. He was in the minors the next year and never returned. He turns 84 years old today. His real first name is Arthur.

Mitchell Page, pinch-hitter for the 1984 Pirates. He went 4-for-12 with three walks in 16 games for the Pirates. That was his final season in the majors, after spending seven years with the Oakland A’s. He was originally with the Pirates, but was part of a nine-player deal with the A’s prior to the 1977 season. The A’s drafted him in the fourth round in 1970, but he passed on signing. Page was drafted in the third round by the Pirates in 1973. He hit a total of 62 homers during the 1974-76 seasons in the minors, and had two straight 20/20 HR/SB seasons, the last one in Triple-A, prior to his trade to the A’s. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in May of 1984, two months after the A’s released him during Spring Training. Page was with the Pirates through the end of 1985, though he spent almost all of his time in Triple-A, where he had the odd stat line of going 39-for-151 (.258 average) in each season. He was with the 1984 Pirates in all of August and September and all 16 of his appearances came as a pinch-hitter, with no time spent in the field. Page hit .307 with 21 homers and 42 stolen bases as a rookie in 1977, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Eddie Murray, despite a 6.1 to 3.2 advantage in WAR. Page never approached those stats during the rest of his career, finishing as a .266 hitter, with 72 homers and 104 steals.

Carlos Garcia, infielder for the 1990-96 Pirates. While he was a member of three straight playoff teams to start his career, a large majority of his time with the Pirates came during the following four seasons. In fact, he was still eligible for the Rookie of the Year in 1993, and then he was an All-Star during the 1994 season. The Pirates traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in a nine-player deal after the 1996 season, and then he played with three teams over his final three seasons in the majors. Garcia was a .278 hitter in 482 games with the Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent at 19 years old out of Venezuela in 1997. He played a total of 38 games for the 1990-92 Pirates and appeared in one playoff game, going 0-for-1 off the bench in game two of the 1992 NLCS. Garcia hit 12 homers and stole 18 bases during the 1993 season. His offensive stats weren’t strong in 1994, but his 0.9 dWAR helped earn him his All-Star spot. In fact, Garcia had a career -1.1 dWAR, never coming close to approaching his success on defense in 1994. He had a career 3.4 WAR with the Pirates, and he was below replacement level with each of his other three teams, leaving him at 1.0 WAR for his career.

Mendy Lopez, infielder for the 2001-02 Pirates. He batted .217 in 25 games with the Pirates, as part of a seven-year career that saw him play just 190 big league games, spent mostly with the Kansas City Royals. Lopez played 22 games for the 2001 Pirates, then saw just three pinch-hit appearances in 2002, striking out in all three at-bats. He originally signed with the Royals as an international free agent from the Dominican in 1992 at 18 years old. He debuted in the majors six years later, hitting .243 in 74 games, making 66 starts at shortstop. The Royals released him in 1999 and he signed with the Florida Marlins for 2000. Lopez played with the Houston Astros at the start of 2001, then was acquired by the Pirates off waivers in August. He became a free agent after the 2001 season, then re-signed with the Pirates on a minor league deal. The Pirates released him after the 2002 season and he returned to the Royals for his final two years. Lopez played pro ball until 2013, seeing time in Mexico, Japan and the Dominican. In 2015, he became a DSL manager for the Pirates and has remained in the system since.

Juan Cruz, relief pitcher for the 2012 Pirates. He had a 2.78 ERA in 43 games for the Pirates, yet it still ended up being the final season of his 12-year career. His only other pitching experience after the Pirates came in the Dominican winter league, where he made seven scoreless appearances over two seasons. Cruz had a 4.05 ERA in 447 games, seeing time with seven different teams. He was signed as an international free agent by the Chicago Cubs out of the Dominican at 18 years old in 1997. He made it to the majors within four years at a starter, then moved to relief the next season. Cruz saw some starting time (15 games) with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, then never started again. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in February of 2012 and he was released at the end of August. He was injured for a short time in July/August, then returned to pitch six times in eight days to end his big league career.

The Game

On this date in 1925 the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Washington Senators by a 9-7 score at Forbes Field in game seven of the World Series to win their second championship. To win the series they had to defeat the great Walter Johnson, who had already won games one and four of the series. The lineups for this game included seven total future Hall of Famers. The Senators had Johnson, Goose Goslin, Sam Rice and Bucky Harris while the Pirates had Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor and Max Carey.

Vic Aldridge started the game for the Pirates. He won games two and five over another future Hall of Famer, Stan Coveleski. On this day however, he did not have his best stuff. He lasted just six batters and four of them would score putting the Pirates in an early hole. Johnny Morrison relieved him to finish out the first inning. The Pirates got on the board in the third inning when Morrison scored on an Eddie Moore double. Moore would score the second run on a Max Carey single and Carey would score two batters later on a Clyde Barnhart single to make it 4-3 after three innings.

The Senators scored two runs in the fourth to chase Morrison and take a three-run lead. The Pirates then went to Ray Kremer, who had won game six just two days earlier, and the move paid off. Pittsburgh would score a solo run in the fifth inning when Cuyler drove home Carey with their fourth run of the game to pull them within two. The score would stay 6-4 until the bottom of the seventh inning. Eddie Moore reached on an error and was driven home by a double from Carey to make it a one-run game. With two outs, Pie Traynor came to the plate and hit a ball into right field that got away from the fielder, Joe Harris. Carey scored to tie the game, but Traynor was cut down at home plate to keep the score tied going into the eighth inning.

In the top of the eighth inning with one out, Senators shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh hit a solo home run to left field to put his team up by one. Despite struggling, the Senators stuck with their ace to try to shut down the Pirates for just two more innings, but Pittsburgh had other ideas. The first two batters were retired before catcher Earl Smith hit a double. Pitcher Emil Yde pinch-ran for him and Carson Bigbee batted for Kremer. Bigbee hit a double to tie the game. Johnson walked the next batter and then got a groundball to Peckinpaugh who botched the throw to second base for the force and gave the Pirates a chance with the bases loaded and Kiki Cuyler up at bat. Cuyler sent a long drive to right field, which went for a ground rule double and put the Pirates up by two. Red Oldham came in for the ninth inning and retired three Hall of Famers in a row, Rice, Harris and Goslin to end the game and give Pittsburgh their second World Series title.

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