Game Rewind: Alleghenys at Cleveland, October 20, 1887

Finding Pittsburgh Pirates history on certain dates in the off-season can be tough at times, especially if no transactions of note were made. You saw that earlier with October 20th having just two former players born on this date and two minor transactions. All of the playoff games over the years from the Pirates happened before this date. However, I was able to find a postseason exhibition game and all I had to do was go back to 1887 to find it. Next time October 20th rolls around, the This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History article will be slightly more interesting thanks to this article.

The Alleghenys played a series of games against the Cleveland Blues of the American Association after the 1887 season. The Alleghenys had just completed their first season in the National League with a 55-69 record. The NL was considered to be the stronger league at that time, so even a mediocre team from that league would be a tough match-up against one of the better AA teams. Cleveland was not one of those better teams. They went 39-92, finished 54 games back in last place, and they allowed 10+ runs in 52 games.

This game included a pitcher for the Alleghenys who never played in the majors. After the season ended, they gave a trial to George Hayes, who played for the Rochester Maroons of the International Association before joining Pittsburgh for the postseason tour. They were thinking of signing him for the 1888 season, so this was his chance to prove his worth. He was a hometown kid, living in Allegheny City, which is now part of Pittsburgh. Hayes won his first game with the team on October 14th, though he was facing the East End Athletics, a local amateur team, with some players who put in some big league team, but no one significant enough that this should have been a close contest. The Alleghenys won 7-5, so the amateurs made a good game of it and Hayes didn’t exactly impress.

Six days later, Hayes, who was often referred to as “Young Hayes” (133 years before Ke’Bryan Hayes), faced a Major League team, albeit the worst one at the time. There isn’t a lot available for this game because the boxscore wasn’t printed. One paper even went as far as saying “A detailed account of the game is unnecessary”. However, I pieced together as much as I could from all of the available accounts.

The Alleghenys lineup included Hayes pitching, George “Doggie” Miller catching, Pop Smith at second base, along with John Coleman, Ed Beecher, Bill Kuehne, Art Whitney and Sam Barkley. Kuehne was likely at shortstop, with Whitney at third base and Barkley at first base. Coleman was probably in right field and Beecher in center. The final player in left field could have been Abner Dalrymple, who was the team captain at the time. The other two possibilities were Jocko Fields (born on October 20th) or Fred Carroll. That was basically the entire team at time, minus the pitchers, who either didn’t make the trip or pitched in the next game (Pud Galvin).

We know Smith was at second base because the paper called out his work on defense, saying he gave a very poor showing as part of the wretched defense behind Hayes. However, the papers also noted that Hayes was hit freely. I’ll save the dramatics and say that he lost 11-8 and the game was called after seven innings due to darkness. Even with seven errors behind him (one source says five), Hayes was still credited with allowing five earned runs on 15 hits. The Alleghenys put together a nice show on offense with their eight runs on 11 hits, while facing Billy Crowell, who managed to win 14 games for a team that had 39 total wins.

The Alleghenys came back from a 3-0 deficit in the third inning with singles from Whitney, Coleman and Kuehne, followed by a Doggie Miller two-run double, and a bases loaded hit-by-pitch.

The good work at the plate was quickly undone by the bad all-around pitching/defense. Hayes allowed six runs in the fourth, then an insurance run tacked on in the fifth made it a 10-3 games.

Pittsburgh turned on the offense in the sixth, though one game account said that Crowell eased up with the game in hand and darkness approaching. Pitchers in the 19th century would often ease up late in one-sided games because they knew that they were required to do extra work, so any way to save some wear-and-tear on their salary wing made sense.

The Alleghenys got singles by Miller, Barkley and Beecher in the sixth, scoring three runs in the frame with help from two Cleveland errors. After Cleveland came back with a run in their half of the inning, Pittsburgh shrunk the deficit with two more runs in the seventh. A Coleman single, a walk and an error set up Miller, who capped the scoring with an RBI single to make it 11-8. The game was called at this point and both teams were shortly on their way to Pittsburgh to play the final two games of the series. Multiple recounts credited Art Whitney with a strong game on defense, while John Coleman also got praise from one source.

After the game, Abner Dalrymple said that Hayes had good command of his pitches and plenty of speed (aka a good fastball). He also threw a nice changeup and a good sinker. Dalrymple thought that Hayes would eventually make a fine big league pitcher, but he needed more experience.

While things didn’t go well for George Hayes, the Alleghenys used pitcher Ad Gumbert in the second game back in Pittsburgh. He would end up winning 123 big league games from 1888 until 1896, with 26 of those wins coming with the 1893-94 Pirates. You could say that he was one who got away, since they were giving him a trial just like Hayes, and he ended up winning 81 games over the next five seasons before actually playing for the Pirates.