This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 15th, Jeff Banister

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a man who was in the lineup for the first game in franchise history.

Jeff Banister, pinch-hitter for the 1991 Pirates. He was a 25th round draft pick out of the University of Houston in 1986 by the Pirates. During his sixth season in the system, he got his one moment in the sun for the Pirates on July 23, 1991. The Pirates called up Banister on July 23rd to replace the injured catcher Don Slaught, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. At the time, he was hitting .266 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 47 games for Triple-A Buffalo. In the seventh inning of a 10-3 game on July 23rd against the Atlanta Braves with the Pirates ahead and at home, Banister came to the plate for his Major League debut, batting for Doug Drabek. With one out and no one on, he hit a 1-1 pitch from veteran Dan Petry between shortstop and third base for his first big league hit, a single. Two batters later he was left stranded at first base, returning to the dugout. He never played another Major League game. He was optioned back to Buffalo on July 27th when the Pirates recalled catcher Tom Prince. Banister was injured in 1992, then played in Double-A in 1993, before taking a managerial position in the minors for the Pirates in 1994. He has spent 30+ years with the Pirates system, last serving as a Special Assistant on the Baseball Operations side until being let go during the 2020 shutdown. During the 2015-18 seasons, he was the manager for the Texas Rangers. He won two division titles (2015-16) and the American League Manager of the Year award in 2016. As a player, Banister was lucky to even make it to college ball. He nearly lost his leg in high school due to bone cancer. In college, he was paralyzed for ten days after a home plate collision. He also had multiple knee operations in the minors.

Edward Kinsella, pitcher for the 1905 Pirates. He went 17-14 in his second minor league season while playing for a team called the Bloomington Bloomers, before the Pirates purchased his contract on August 4, 1905 for $1,000. He was allowed to finish the minor league season with Bloomington before reporting to the Pirates. He joined the Pirates on September 14th and made his big league debut in relief on September 16th, facing seven batters over two scoreless innings. He then made two starts, pitching a 2-2 tie on September 30th and a 4-1 loss on October 8th. Both games were the second game of a doubleheader, and his second start was the last game of the season. Kinsella pitched a complete game on September 18th in an exhibition game against a team from Newark, Ohio. The Pirates won the game, but he allowed five runs on 12 hits. He threw another complete game in an exhibition against Columbus of the American Association and won 11-3. While he was facing a minor league team, the AA was one of the best leagues in the minors and that Columbus team went 100-52 that season, so they were a worthy opponent. After seeing him in his debut, a writer for the Pittsburgh Press said that Kinsella was “a good sized chap, with much speed, good curves, and a plentiful supply of confidence”. After the season ended the Pirates sold his contract to Toledo of the American Association, along with infielder Otto Knabe, in a deal that was announced on December 15th. Kinsella was working an off-season job in November when he got fired for taking the day off after pay day. His salary for the week was reported as $9.60, slightly less than he got paid to pitch (sarcasm, but not as much as you think). He pitched four full seasons in the minors before getting his second and final shot at the majors with the 1910 St Louis Browns. During that 1906-09 stretch, he had three consecutive 21+ win seasons with Portland of the Pacific Coast League (1907-08) and Portland of the Northwestern League (1909). He pitched 370 innings during the 1907 season. Kinsella made five starts and five relief appearances during his one season with the Browns, posting a 3.78 ERA in 50 innings. He finished his career in the minors in 1914, playing for three different teams in his final year. While his minor league stats are incomplete (two full years are missing win/loss records), he had at least four 20+ win seasons and at least 135 wins.

Jock Menefee, pitcher for the 1892 and 1894-95 Pirates. He made his Major League debut with the Pirates during the 1892 season as a right fielder for the final inning on August 17th, one day after he joined the team. After Doggie Miller, who was playing with a bad leg that caused him to limp, needed to leave the game, Menefee took his spot and caught a fly ball to help the Pirates secure a 3-1 win. He debuted in pitcher’s box on August 22nd and pitched poorly, during what turned out to be his only pitching appearance that season. The Pirates were losing 7-1 to Brooklyn with one out in the fourth inning, when Menefee was called on to relieve starter Red Ehret. Menefee gave up an inherited run in the fourth, and then nine runs of his own over the rest of the game on ten hits and two walks. His current records say he gave up six runs over four innings, but every play-by-play from the day, including one with a detailed batter-by-batter recap of the fourth inning, has him allowing nine runs in 5.2 innings. Before joining the Pirates, he was in his third season of pro ball, playing for Wilkes-Barre of the Pennsylvania State League. His Wilkes-Barre team folded the day after his lone big league appearance, but he remained with the Pirates. Menefee was scheduled to pitch an exhibition game for the Pirates in Jamestown on September 6th, but a doubleheader with the Washington Senators got rained out on the 5th, so the exhibition game was canceled and the doubleheader moved to the 6th.

Jock (his first name was John) debuted in pro ball at 22 years old with Erie of the New York-Penn League in 1890 and then stayed there for the 1891 season, serving parts of those seasons as the team’s manager. He pitched most of the 1893 season for Louisville (NL), and he was there for part of 1894 as well, until the Pirates reacquired him in exchange for pitcher George Nicol and cash in August. Menefee went 5-8, 5.40 in 13 starts with the Pirates to finish that 1894 season. In 1895 he pitched poorly in two games before being released. He didn’t pitch in the majors again until he started just one game for the New York Giants in 1898, but beginning in 1900, he spent four full seasons in the Chicago Orphans/Cubs starting rotation. Menefee’s best season was when he went 12-10, 2.42 in 197.1 innings in 1902. He had an 11-3 complete game loss to the Pirates that year in which he allowed just one earned run. Just 12 days later, he threw a shutout against the Pirates, in a season that many consider to be their best year ever. He was a decent enough hitter/fielder that he played 82 games in the field during his Major League career at six different positions other than pitcher. Over nine seasons in the majors, he went 58-70, 3.81 in 1,111.1 innings. He was a .222 hitter with 57 RBIs in 221 games.

Mike Mansell, left fielder for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He started his minor league career with Syracuse of the League Alliance in 1877 and stayed with the team as they first moved to the International Association in 1878, then the National League in 1879. Syracuse did very poorly that season and Mansell struggled with his team. He hit .215 with a .491 OPS in 65 games (they played 71 games that season) as their everyday left fielder. He showed great range (best in the league according to Range Factor), but he also committed 29 errors. Well not an awful total back before gloves, when official scorers were ruthless, it was still the fourth most in the league for all outfielders. He played with the Cincinnati Reds in 1880, a franchise in the NL that pre-dated the current Reds franchise, which started in the American Association in 1882. Mansell did even worse at the plate, with a .193 average and .487 OPS, and his fielding wasn’t great either, with 25 errors in 53 games in left field. That second Reds team was joined by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1882 during the first year of the American Association. Mansell, who spent the 1881 season in the minors (see fun fact below),  was the starting left fielder for Pittsburgh in their first year, playing all 79 games. He hit .277, while leading the league in both doubles and triples. It was quite a turnaround at the plate for the for 24-year-old. In 1883, he batted .257 and scored 90 runs in just 96 games. The Alleghenys suffered through a tough season that year, finishing with a 31-67 record. In 1884, Mansell struggled with the Alleghenys, then was dropped on June 13th (along with backup infielder John Peters) after posting a .140 average through 27 games. The team posted a 30-78 record on the season, going 20-57 after releasing the two players. Mansell’s home run on June 5th was the first of the season for the team. They ended up getting just one more all year, when Charlie Eden hit one one August 27th. Mansell played for two other American Association teams in 1884 before returning to the minors to finish his career. He was a .239 hitter in 371 big league games. His brother Tom played five seasons in the majors, his brother John played one year. All three played outfield together in the minors with Albany in 1881.