This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: November 3rd, Jim McCormick

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and the most recent one  was born in 1917.

Len Gilmore, pitcher for the 1944 Pirates. The first of two pitchers on this list today who had a one-game big league career. Gilmore’s game for the Pirates came on October 1, 1944 and he threw a complete game, giving up seven runs in eight innings, while taking the loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He didn’t issue a walk or record a strikeout. No pitcher in team history has more innings pitched without a walk and a strikeout, yet he did both in the same game. All 36 batters he faced put the ball in play. This was the second game of a doubleheader and the final game of the season. Gilmore played pro ball from age 20 in 1938 until 1952, winning 110 minor league games. He played independent ball before joining the Pirates system in 1943. During the 1944 season, he went 21-5, 2.63 in 246 innings for Albany of the Eastern League. He reported to Pittsburgh after the minor league season ended, joining the Pirates on September 20th. Gilmore competed for a roster spot in Spring Training of 1945, but when he didn’t make the team, he was traded to a minor league team in the Pacific Coast League.

Homer Summa, outfielder for the 1920 Pirates. He was destined to play baseball with the given name “Homer”. It didn’t translate to power though. After hitting .318 with no homers in ten games with the 1920 Pirates, he hit 18 homers total over nine big league seasons and 3,001 at-bats, split between Cleveland and the Philadelphia A’s. Homer never homered more than four times in a season. Summa struggled his rookie year in the minors in 1919, hitting just .192 over 113 games. He had a complete turnaround the next season, hitting .351 for a team from Norfolk and earning himself a shot at the majors. The Pirates bought him contract on August 30, 1920 and he joined the club 14 days later along with Pie Traynor. He made his Major League debut on September 13, 1920 (his first day with the team) for the Pirates, two days before Traynor made his debut. Summa had a 3-for-4 (got robbed on the fourth hit) game on September 17th, which got him a lot of press and pushed Traynor’s name to the footnote section. Summa hit .318 in his ten games with the Pirates, going 7-for-22 with three walks. He made the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1921, though just a week later (without playing a game) he was released to the minors, with a return option. Summa was still Pirates property into late December of 1921, though by the end of 1922 he was with the Cleveland Indians. He played seven seasons in Cleveland, hitting .303 in 768 games. After two years spent with the Philadelphia A’s, he retired from the majors with a .302 average. He went on the play in the Pacific Coast League for four seasons and he had a .318 career minor league average.

Fred Hayner, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. His big league career lasted one day and he was just 18 years old at the time. Hayner pitched in relief on August 19th and gave up seven runs over the final three innings of the game. Those stats differ from what you will find online for him (nine runs in four innings), but through extensive research I was able to determine that he came into the game in the seventh inning, not sixth. Hayner pitched his only game for the Alleghenys in Chicago, which is where he played amateur ball at the time. His big league career was quite literally a one-day tryout and one paper reported that he wore his brother’s amateur team uniform onto the field, so he never actually wore a Pittsburgh Alleghenys uniform. To make matters slightly worse, he may have had some trouble convincing friends that he pitched in a big league game. Some of the boxscores called him either “Horner” or “Haymer”. Hayner doesn’t have any other pro career stats listed, so that game on August 19, 1890 appears to be his entire career.

Harry Staley, pitcher for the 1888-89 Alleghenys, who returned to the club in 1891 when the Player’s League folded. Staley helped fill the open spot in the rotation left by the retirement of Jim McCormick (see below) after the 1887 season. The Alleghenys bought him from a minor league team named the St Louis Whites in June of 1888 after he posted a 1.76 ERA in 20 starts. That was his only pro experience before joining Pittsburgh. He made another 24 starts in the majors that year, completing all of them, with a 12-12, 2.69 record. He threw a total of 386.1 innings. The following season he posted a 3.51 ERA over 420 innings during a higher offense year, finishing sixth in the NL in ERA. In 1890, almost the entire Alleghenys team, along with most of the better players around baseball, jumped to the newly formed Player’s League for the season. The league folded after one year and all players were put back on their original rosters from 1889, as long as that team reserved them. Staley led the National League in losses in 1889 (26), then went 21-25 for Pittsburgh in the lone season of the Player’s League in 1890. He returned to the Pirates/Alleghenys in 1891 and went 4-5 over the first month before he was released. That turned out to be a poor decision, as he went on to win 20 games for Boston that year, then went 22-10 the following season. Staley won 136 games over an eight-year career, playing his final game in 1895. He won 37 games for the Alleghenys/Pirates.

Jim McCormick, pitcher for the 1887 Alleghenys. He went 13-23 in his only season in Pittsburgh, then turned down a rare (for the time) three-year deal, deciding to retire to go into his own business in town. He ended up regretting that decision, but never got back into baseball. It was a decision that cost him (so far) a spot in the Hall of Fame. McCormick won 265 games in ten seasons. Though obviously not a statistical category when he played, he led all pitchers in WAR three times between 1880 and 1884.

McCormick made his Major League debut in 1878 for the Indianapolis Blues, a one-year franchise in the National League that finished in fifth place (out of six teams) that year. He went just 5-8 that year making his final career win total that much more impressive. The next year he was on the Cleveland Blues, a team that finished last in hitting. He started 60 of the team’s 82 games, completing all but one start. Despite a 2.42 ERA, he had a 20-40 record. His 1880 season is one of the best pitching seasons ever. While still on the Blues, he posted a 1.85 ERA and won an NL leading 45 games. He also made 74 starts, completing 72 games, and he led the NL with 657.2 innings pitched. His totals in each of those last three categories ranks him in the top four all-time for single seasons. He led his league in wins in 1883 and ERA in both 1883 and 84.

The year prior to joining the Pirates, he played for the Chicago White Stockings (Cubs) and went 31-11 with a 2.82 ERA. The White Stockings decided to trade him due to contract reasons right before the start of the 1887 season, sending him to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, a team brand new to the NL that year. In exchange, they got cash and pitcher George Van Haltren, who Pittsburgh not only unloaded twice, but he turned out to be one of the best 19th century hitters not in the Hall of Fame yet (read much more on him here). McCormick struggled his only season in Pittsburgh going 13-23, with what was easily his highest season ERA at 4.30. Despite the poor record he was offered a job for the 1888 season with Pittsburgh, albeit at a lesser salary. He refused, and walked away from baseball at age 30, just 35 wins short of the magical 300 mark that gets you into the Hall of Fame. Of course, he had no way of knowing that at the time and very little publicity went along with milestones back then. Only three pitchers who have won more career games than him, have also put on a Pirates uniform (Pud Galvin, Bert Blyleven and Burleigh Grimes)