Game Rewind: Pittsburgh vs Brooklyn, May 22, 1891

On May 22, 1891, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys/Pirates unveiled a new pitcher to the hometown fans. It was 21-year-old Scott Stratton, who went 34-14, 2.36 for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in 1890. The American Association was considered the third best Major League at that time, but those were still outstanding numbers for a young pitcher. While they weren’t official stats back then, we now know that his ERA led the league, as did his 1.07 WHIP. If you check the record books, they will say that Stratton made his Pittsburgh debut on May 25th versus Boston, when he took a tough 4-3 loss in ten innings against Hall of Fame pitcher Kid Nichols. So obviously this article needs some explaining.

I’ve covered exhibition games here, including ones that had players who never actually appeared in a game for the Pirates. This isn’t one of those scenarios. I’ll also note that while 1891 is considered the first year for the name “Pirates”, team names were not official back then and the term “Pirates” was mostly used by the press in a few of the other National League cities. The local papers still called them the Alleghenys or the Pittsburghs, though they also got nicknames from their two managers that year. When Ned Hanlon was in charge at the beginning of the season, they were often called the Hanlons. When Bill McGunnigle took over mid-season, he ran practices with a whistle and the local press quickly dubbed the team “Pets”. If you read Pittsburgh papers during that time, the Pirates name trailed well behind the other four names mentioned here as far as usage.

The name Pittsburgh was actually spelled without an H at the end at this time (1890-1911), but newspapers often went with the current spelling anyway. If you want to make things even more confusing, the team actually played in Allegheny City at this time. The plot of land where their stadium was at didn’t become Pittsburgh until 1907. So if you went by the actual town name and the team name you saw most often back then, they would have been called the Allegheny City Pittsburghs.

I added some extra history here just because there isn’t much to talk about with the May 22nd game. However, it has something that is almost unheard of in an old game recap, which I will get to below.

In the first inning, Stratton walked the lead-off batter on a full count pitch. Hall of Famer John Ward then beat out a bunt to third base to put two men on. Third place hitter Mike Griffin grounded back to the pitcher, with an out made at first base and both runners moving up. Dave Foutz then hit a fly ball to Al Maul, which was deep enough to score Hub Collins from third base. Oyster Burns drew a two-out walk on four pitches, but he was thrown out trying to steal second base.

In the second inning, Stratton made quick work of the opposition, retiring the side in order on two fly outs to left field, and an out hit to first base.

Despite being the home team, Pittsburgh batted in the top of the inning. They had two base runners in the first two innings, but they went quietly in each frame against Tom Lovett. They mounted a comeback in the third inning. Down 1-0, Stratton started things off with a walk. Doggie Miller then singled to left field. Hall of Fame Jake Beckley came up with two men on and no outs and….nothing. Beckley was in the middle of his at-bat when the skies opened up and both teams went for cover.

Back then, umpires had to give the rain 30 minutes before deciding what to do. On this day, the rain stopped before 30 minutes, but umpire John McQuaid looked the field over and decided that they wouldn’t be able to continue to game. Pittsburgh and Brooklyn had a game scheduled for the following day, but right before the game started, the rain started. They were unable to play again. Somewhat surprisingly by today’s standards, Pittsburgh was sending out Scott Stratton again for his first start. He would end up making that official first start two days later, with the day in between being a Sunday off-day.

I gave some hints as to why I decided to write about this game. Stratton pitched just two games in Pittsburgh and lost both before being let go (he returned to Louisville), so clearly that wasn’t the reason I wrote this up. His best days were spent elsewhere and he’s not a major player of note now. The clues were in the first inning recap for Brooklyn. I’ve seen full pitch counts for games mentioned a handful of times in old recaps, but this game goes one step farther. They actual have the pitches per at-bat and a ball-strike breakdown.

I get it, you’re not as excited as me, but if this wasn’t a major deal, I wouldn’t be writing about a game stopped in the third inning due to rain 130 years ago.

Here are the pitcher/batter breakdowns for Stratton for all eight batters he faced. Darby O’Brien was at the plate when the final out was made in the first, so I split up his at-bats below:

  1. Collins – 4 balls/2 strikes
  2. Ward – 1 strike
  3. Griffin – 1 ball/2 strikes
  4. Foutz – 1 strike
  5. Burns – 4 balls
  6. Darby O’Brien – 1 ball
  7. Darby O’Brien – 1 strike
  8. George Pinkney – 1 strike
  9. Tom Daly – 1 ball/1 strike

Stratton threw 20 pitches total, 11 balls and nine strikes.

I wasn’t able to find the entire Pittsburgh lineup for this game because there was no boxscore to print, but we know most of it. Stratton was batting ninth. Doggie Miller was hitting lead-off and Jake Beckley was at first base. Al Maul and Pete Browning (the original Louisville Slugger) were in the outfield, with Browning in left field. Louis Bierbauer was at second base and Charlie Reilly was at third base, with Connie Mack catching. If the lineup was the same as the day before (except for Mack), then Miller was at shortstop, Maul in center field, with Fred Carroll in right field.