This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 11th, Pop, Red and Turner

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date.

Turner Ward, outfielder for the 1997-99 Pirates. He was drafted in 1986 by the New York Yankees in the 18th round out of the University of South Alabama and he made his Major League debut four years later for the Cleveland Indians. Ward had a .691 OPS in 63 games during his first season of pro ball, while spending the half year in the New York-Penn League. He moved up to Low-A in 1987 and hit .294 with 83 runs scored and 25 stolen bases in 28 attempts. He advanced to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 1988, where he batted .251 with 24 doubles and 28 steals in 33 attempts. He was traded to the Indians in the middle of Spring Training in 1989. Ward was limited to 34 games during the 1989 season due to a freak Spring Training injury that happened the day before Opening Day. He broke multiple bones in his right leg while trying to stop after going after a fly ball. Healthy in 1990, Ward put up an .806 OPS in the hitter-friendly confines of Colorado Springs, which earned him a September look in Cleveland and he impressed by batting .348 in 16 games. Ward was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of the 1991 season. He ended up playing in the majors and minors for both the Indians and Blue Jays that year. During his big league time, he combined to hit .239 with no homers or steals in 48 games. He would split the 1992 season between Toronto and Triple-A, spending most of the time in the minors. Once again he excelled in a small sample size in the majors, hitting .345 in 18 games for the Blue Jays. He finally got an extended big league look in 1993 and responded by hitting .192 in 72 games, with a .599 OPS.

Ward was picked up on waivers by the Brewers in November of 1993. In his first seven seasons, he had more than 200 plate appearances just once, and it came during the strike-shortened 1994 season when he hit .232 with 45 RBIs and 52 walks in 102 games. He actually did better the next year, but he was limited to 44 games. Ward put up a .733 OPS in 164 plate appearances. He went on the disabled list in early June and early July with a hamstring injury. His return in late July lasted four games before he was done for the year with the same hamstring injury returning. In 1996 he played just 43 games, getting 82 plate appearances in which he hit .179 with ten RBIs. A strained right shoulder kept him out of action for all of June, July and August, except for a few rehab games before he returned on September 1st. The Pirates picked him up on April 22, 1997 as a free agent. After hitting .340 in 59 games for Triple-A Calgary, he was called up and continued with the hot bat. Ward hit .353 in 71 games for the Pirates, with 33 RBIs and 33 runs scored. In 1998 he played a career high 123 games, with half (61 games) coming off of the bench. He ended up hitting .262 with nine homers and a career high 46 RBIs. In 1999, he struggled at the plate in limited playing time and was released in August. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he hit .348 in 23 at-bats. He then hit a three-run homer during the NLDS against the New York Mets. Ward played parts of two more seasons in the majors, seeing time with the 2000 Diamondbacks and 2001 Philadelphia Phillies before retiring as a player. He has coached and also managed three years in the minors since retiring, including the 2007 season for the Pirates with their State College affiliate. Ward hit .251 with 39 homers and 291 RBIs over 6262 games and 12 seasons in the majors. He batted .281 with 16 homers and 87 RBIs in 243 games with the Pirates.

Hank Schenz, infielder for the 1950-51 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1939 at 20 years old, playing for four years before losing three seasons to military service during WWII. Schenz put up some impressive numbers at the lowest level of the minor league system at the time. He batted .312 with 35 extra-base hits in 83 games in 1939, then came back with a .328 average and 41 extra-base hits in 125 games in 1940. He moved up to the Piedmont League (Class-B) for the 1941-42 seasons and had mediocre/similar results each season. In a combined 255 games for Portsmouth over two years, he hit .244 with 37 extra-base hits (just one homer). He missed the 1943-45 seasons while serving in the Navy. When he returned in 1946, he hit .333 in 138 games for the Tulsa Oilers of the Texas League, earning a late season promotion to the Chicago Cubs. He went 2-for-11 in six September games. Schenz was with the Cubs at the start and finish of the 1947 season, but a majority of the year was spent in the minors. He went 1-for-14 at the plate in seven big league games. Schenz spent four seasons with the Cubs, but he only had one full year in the majors (1948). He hit .261 with 17 doubles and 43 runs scored that year in 96 games, spending most of his time in the field playing second base. The Cubs traded Schenz to the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1949 season and then the Pirates purchased his contract from Brooklyn that November. Before the trade, he was hitting .429 in seven games. After the deal, he spent the rest of the season with St Paul of the American Association, where he hit .345 with 17 homers and 77 RBIs in 123 games. With the Pirates in 1950, he saw backup playing time at 3B/SS/2B, getting into a total of 58 games (16 starts) with 110 plate appearances. He hit .228 with five RBIs and 17 runs scored. The latter number was high due to numerous pinch-running appearances. In 1951 he was used often early at second base, but by the end of June he was put on waivers, where the New York Giants picked him up. He was hitting .213 with a .455 OPS in 25 games before joining New York. The rest of his Major League career consisted of just eight pinch-running appearances with the 1951 Giants. Schenz finished his pro career with four seasons in the minors, the last as a player-manager for the Tulsa Oilers. Despite hitting 17 homers in a partial season right before joining the Pirates, he was not much of a power hitter. Schenz hit two homers in 207 big league games, and he had a total of 51 homers in 1,277 minor league games. The only other time he reached double digit homers in a season was in 1954 when he hit 11 in 165 games with Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League.

Red Smith, catcher for the 1917-18 Pirates. In Major League baseball, four players have been known by the name Red Smith. All played during the same era and one played for the Pirates. Willard Jehu “Red” Smith caught two seasons in the majors, both for Pittsburgh. He began his pro career in 1910, but didn’t make the majors until mid-September 1917 after hitting .267 in 89 games for the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. Smith started with the Hopkinsville Hoppers of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League (more commonly known as the KITTY League for obvious reasons). He spent three years with that club, which was considered to be a Class-D level of play, the lowest at the time in pro ball.

There seems to be some confusion with his 1913 season, which appears to be credited to someone else, and it may have something to do with Red Smith being such a common name. The future Pirates player named Red Smith played for a KITTY League team in Cairo for part of 1912, and then Cairo had a catcher named Red Smith in 1913, who was sold at the end of the year to Nashville of the Southern Association, which is where this Red Smith played in 1914-15. However, the 1913 Cairo catching stats are credited to someone named Daniel Smith. I believe that those 1913 stats are Red Smith’s based on the fact that Cairo’s Smith was receiving plenty of praise for his catching and he hit .329 that season, plus he ended up with Nashville. The “Daniel Smith” player has no known stats after 1913, which would seem odd for a player who did so well and had a new team. There’s also a note from Nashville in March of 1914 that said that Willard “Red” Smith came over from the KITTY League late last year.

Smith spent four straight season playing in the Southern Association, a league which was two levels below the majors (equivalent to Double-A now). He played two years with Nashville (1914-15) and two with Birmingham (1916-17). The Pirates purchased his contract as part of a group of five players bought from Birmingham on August 15, 1917, with all five players reporting to the team at the end of the Southern Association season. Smith debuted with the Pirates on September 17th (one day after joining the club) and he caught six games during his first big league trial. He received 24 plate appearances and hit .143 with two RBIs. In 1918 he saw limited time, getting into 15 games total, six as a starter. He hit .167 with three RBIs in 24 at-bats. Smith was called into service in late March and the Pirates sold his contract back to Birmingham on April 2nd, figuring that he wouldn’t play that season. It turned out that he failed the Army exam and was returned home, then ended up playing for Birmingham until joining the Pirates on July 1st. He debuted on July 3rd and played his final game on September 1st (the season ended on September 2nd due to WWI), then joined a wartime job, where he still played some baseball with some Pirates teammates for a team called Westinghouse, including games at Forbes Field. On March 27th, his time with the Pirates came to an end when he was sold to Memphis of the Southern Association. His minor league records include big spaces with no information, which is likely due to the name confusion. He is listed as playing in 1919, 1923 and 1926-28.

Pop Corkhill, outfielder for the 1891-92 Pirates. Before joining Pittsburgh, he was a star outfielder for a brief time in the majors, posting three straight 90+ RBI seasons for the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association from 1886-1888. Corkhill debuted in pro ball at a late age, playing his first season at 24 years old with Philadelphia of the League Alliance. After one  minor league season, he debuted in the majors with Cincinnati in 1883. Most of his rookie season was spent in right field. He hit .216 in 88 games, with 46 RBIs and 53 runs scored. In 1884, Corkhill batted .274 in 110 games, with 70 RBIs and 85 runs scored. He led the American Association with 112 games played in 1885, though he saw a drop in his production with a .594 OPS. While he became a big run producer in 1886, he managed to do that despite a .637 OPS in 129 games. Corkhill led the Red Stockings with 97 RBIs, and he had 81 runs scored that season. He drove in 97 runs again during the 1887 season, which tied for the team lead in Cincinnati. He also put up a career best .311 average, the only time during his ten-year career in which he batted over .285 in a season. Corkhill spent most of 1888 with Cincinnati, who sold him to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in late September. He batted .271 in 118 games for Cincinnati, then hit .380 in 19 games for Brooklyn. He combined to drive in 93 runs, score 85 runs, and steal 30 bases for the second consecutive season.

In 1889 he hit .250 with 78 RBIs and 91 runs scored for the Bridegrooms, helping them take the American Association title. When the team moved to the National League for the 1890 season, Corkhill came along. While the team finished in first place again, he hit just .225 in 51 games before being released in August. The 1891 season saw him play for three different teams in two different leagues, the third team being the Pirates. He batted .209 in 83 games for Philadelphia of the American Association, then played one game for the Cincinnati Reds (his old team, which had moved to the NL). In 41 games in Pittsburgh, he hit .228 with 20 RBIs, while playing center field. The following season he saw time in center and right field, playing strong defense, but hitting only .184 in 68 games, in what would end up be his last season in the majors. The Pirates acquired future Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Kelley from the minors in early July, though he didn’t debut until July 27th. Corkhill played his final game on July 12th, but he wasn’t released until Kelley debuted. Pop (his first name was John) was a career .254 hitter with 631 RBIs and 650 runs scored in 1,086 games. He was one of the top outfielders of his day, five times leading the league in fielding percentage and his 224 outfield assists rank him 35th all-time still to this day.