This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 24th, More Notable Opening Days

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and two Opening Days of note.

The Players

Ryan Reid, pitcher for the 2013 Pirates. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, selected in the seventh round out of James Madison University.  It took him seven seasons to make the majors, and his big league stay was brief. Reid had a rough debut in the New York-Penn League in 2006, going 1-9, 6.24 in 53.1 innings. That was his only season spent as a starting pitcher in pro ball. He moved to relief in 2007 and had a solid season in Low-A, going 6-5, 2.97 with ten saves in 72.2 innings. Reid dominated High-A ball in 2008, allowing one run in 31 innings. He didn’t do as well in Double-A that year, posting a 4.66 ERA in 46.1 innings. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the season and put up a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. Reid was in Double-A for all of 2009 and 2010, posting similar results each year. He had a 4.17 ERA in 58.1 innings in 2009, followed by a 3.98 ERA in 72.1 innings in 2010. He split the 2011 season between Double-A and Triple-A, combining for a 5.05 ERA in 71.1 innings. He did very well in winter ball in Venezuela, working as a closer, putting up a 1.86 ERA and ten saves in 18 appearances. Reid spent the 2012 season in Triple-A, where he had a 3.52 ERA in 79.1 innings. The Pirates signed him as a minor league free agent during the 2012-13 off-season, when he was once again a strong closing pitcher in Venezuela. Reid made his big league debut on June 3, 2013 and pitched his final big league game on July 4th, 31 days later. In seven relief appearances, he allowed two runs over 11 innings. At the time of his call up, he had an 0.52 ERA in 34.1 innings at Triple-A. He was optioned to the minors on July 7th when A.J. Burnett was activated off of the disabled list. After being sent down, he had a 5.84 ERA over the rest of the season. The Pirates lost Reid via waivers to the New York Mets after the season. He spent the 2014 season in Triple-A for the Mets, posting a 4.91 ERA in 69.2 innings. He pitched winter ball in Venezuela after the season, but did not pitch during the 2015 season. Reid returned for one more season in 2016, splitting the year between independent ball and six appearances in High-A for the Miami Marlins.

Bob Beall, pinch-hitter for the 1980 Pirates. He was a 28th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970 out of Oregon State University. He had a huge first season of pro ball playing in the Northwest League, hitting .389 with 81 runs scored, 95 walks, 14 steals and 28 extra-base hits in 80 games. He had a .556 OBP that season. The Phillies moved him up just one level in his first full season of pro ball in 1971. Playing in Low-A, he hit .314, with 110 walks in 138 games. Beall was up in Double-A for all of 1972, where he hit .283 with 132 walks and 82 runs scored in 139 games. He advanced to Triple-A for 1973, where he saw his average drop to .234, though 99 walks contributed to a .399 OBP. After the season, the Phillies traded him to the Atlanta Braves for veteran big league infielder Gil Garrido. Beall became more of a singles hitter in 1974, with just 24 extra-base hits in 139 games, but he hit .286 with 136 walks and 105 runs scored. That still wasn’t enough to get him to the majors. He saw a drop again in his average in 1975, but Beall made his Major League debut with the Braves in May, hitting .226 in 20 games before being sent back to the minors in June. He spent each of the next two seasons at Triple-A for the Braves before returning to the majors in 1978. He showed amazing plate patience, walking over 130 times during four of his seasons in the minors from 1972 until 1977. That included a .306 average and 135 walks in 109 games in 1976, and a .281 average with 133 walks in 1977. In his only full season in the majors (1978), Beall hit .243 with 16 RBIs and a .368 OBP in 108 games. He made 30 starts at first base and four starts in center field, while playing the other 74 games off of the bench. He started the 1979 season with the Braves, but was sent down after going 0-for-9 in his first 12 games. He was still in the minors when the Pirates acquired him in a trade on July 16, 1980 in exchange for minor league second baseman Jerry McDonald. Beall hit just .217 in 45 games at Triple-A after the trade, but he was still a September call-up for the Pirates, pinch-hitting three times over the last 31 games without collecting a hit or playing in the field. He spent all of 1981 at Triple-A for the Pirates, putting up a .487 OBP in 62 games, in what would be his last season of pro ball. He had a .453 OPS in 1,131 minor league games, with 993 hits and 1,037 walks.

Dixie Howell, catcher for the 1947 Pirates. He was originally signed at 18 years old as an amateur free agent in 1938 by the Brooklyn Dodgers, but didn’t make his big league debut until 1947 with the Pirates. He spent his first two seasons playing Class-D level ball, hitting .268 in 81 games for Thomasville of the Georgia-Florida League in 1938, followed by a .312 average in 86 games for Dover of the Eastern Shore League in 1939. He played for four teams during the 1940 season, making all the way to the top of the minor league system for a brief time with Baltimore of the International League. Howell split the 1941 season between Baltimore and Montreal (also of the International League), then stayed in Montreal for the next two seasons. He hit just .171 in 62 games in 1942, then batted .259 in 110 games during the 1943 season. He wasn’t much of a power hitter during those first six seasons, topping out at 30 extra-base hits in a year (1939). Howell missed the 1944-45 seasons while serving in the military during WWII. He returned in 1946 and hit .295 in 84 games for Montreal. The Pirates acquired Howell, along with four other players from the Dodgers on May 3, 1947, in exchange for Al Gionfriddo and at least $100,000 in cash. Howell hit .276 with 25 RBIs in 76 games for the Pirates during that 1947 season. He received the most playing time out of five catchers who played 12+ games behind the plate that season for the Pirates. On January 15, 1948 he was traded to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to complete an earlier deal for highly touted pitcher Bob Chesnes. After spending the 1948 season in the minors, Howell would end up playing another 264 games in the majors over parts of seven seasons. He was a backup catcher for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1949-51 seasons, starting a total of 168 games over that three-year span. He was consistent at the plate during that time, playing between 64 and 82 games each year, while his OPS ranged from .611 to .625 those seasons. He became a third-string catcher during the 1952 season, playing a total of 17 games, while going 112 games between starts at one point. Howell spent most of 1953 in the minors, playing just one game with the Dodgers. After hitting .307 in 107 games in 1954 with Montreal of the International League, he returned to the majors as one of two backups for Roy Campanella in 1955. Howell batted .262 in 16 games, then played his final seven big league games with the Dodgers during the second half of the 1956 season. He finished his career in the minors in 1958 with the Dodgers. In eight big league seasons, he batted .246 with 12 homers and 93 RBIs in 340 games. He had one stolen base in the majors, coming during his 34th career game. There was an American League pitcher who played six seasons between 1940 and 1958, who also went by the name Dixie Howell. His first name was Millard. The Pirates catcher’s real first name was Homer (why did he have a nickname with that first name!).

Pete Falsey, left fielder for the 1914 Pirates. The Pirates signed Falsey on July 9, 1914 to a two-year deal, one month after he graduated from Yale, where he was a star left fielder for two seasons. He batted .396 in 24 games during the 1914 season in college. Both the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants were interested in Falsey, but the Pirates were able to sign him through help of a former big league player named Jim Canavan, who was said to be good friends with team owner Barney Dreyfuss. Falsey reported to the Pirates four days later at Forbes Field. He made his Major League debut without a single game of minor league ball, pinch-hitting in the second game of a doubleheader on July 16, 1914. Jeff Pfeffer, who would later finish his career with the 1924 Pirates, struck him out to lead off the seventh inning. Falsey batted for Bob Coleman, who was the second of three catchers used by the Pirates in that game. Starter George Gibson was thrown out in the second inning for arguing a strike call. That pinch-hitting appearance turned out to be Falsey’s only big league at-bat. The only note in the local paper about his appearance was possibly in jest, saying that “He stands nice at the plate”. He was used just two more times by the Pirates, once on July 22nd and then again on August 5th, both times as a pinch-runner for Ham Hyatt. In that first pinch-running appearance, Falsey was thrown out at the plate, trying to score from third base on a grounder to Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville. It was said that Falsey failed to show sufficient big league stuff. The Pirates actually placed him on waivers before his second appearance, hoping to receive the waiver price from some team for his services. That was back when players were still able to play for the team while on waivers. Shortly after the Pirates signed Falsey, they also signed young outfielder Ralph Shafer, who ended up playing just one big league game as a pinch-runner on July 25th (not coincidentally, it was also for Ham Hyatt). They added a third outfielder named John “Zip” Collins at the same time. When the Pirates went on a road trip after their game on July 24th, Shafer and Collins went with the team and Falsey stayed back at Forbes Field to work out. He was called on to join the team in Boston when Shafer was let go on August 2nd. A headline in the local papers on August 4th said that if Falsey arrived by game time that day that he would be in the lineup in place of Max Carey, but that never happened. On August 10th he was given his unconditional release and said to have returned home.  Falsey played for a semi-pro team in the Boston area in 1915 that was made up mostly of former Yale players. He also appeared briefly for Albany of the New York State League in 1916 and later played semi-pro ball in Philadelphia.

Jim Field, first baseman for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his pro career and his Major League career with the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association in 1883, hitting .258 in 75 games. The next year he hit just .233 in 104 games, but he was able to score 74 runs. Field was one of nine players the Alleghenys purchased from the Buckeyes on October 30, 1884. The Columbus team folded and sold off all of their players to Pittsburgh, as the American Association went from 12 teams down to eight. Field hit .239 in 56 games for the Alleghenys, before finishing the 1885 season with the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit .208 in 38 games. He played the first 56 games of the 1885 season at first base for Pittsburgh (through July 4th) then was replaced two days later by newly acquired Milt Scott. That same day the Alleghenys released Field, saying that Scott had the better bat. In a bad twist of fate for Field, Scott took over the Baltimore job at first base in 1886, so he was replaced by the same player twice within nine months. Field went to the minors leagues in 1886, where he spent 15 more seasons as a player. He appeared back in the majors in 1890 with Rochester of the American Association, where he batted .202 with 16 extra-base hits and 30 runs scored in 52 games. Eight years later he played five mid-season games for the Washington Senators, in what turned out to be his only time in the National League. Over five big league seasons, he batted .230 in 331 games, with ten home runs and 180 runs scored. While he never pitched full-time, Field pitched at least one game for six straight season (1890-95), and even pitched a complete game victory over the Philadelphia Athletics on October 9, 1890 while with Rochester. Most of his minor league time was spent in the northeast, playing for teams in Newark, NJ for five years, Buffalo, NY for five years, as well as two years in Erie, PA and stints in Syracuse and Philadelphia. His only action outside of the north in 18 seasons was 1886, when he played for Savannah of the Southern Association. In 1894 with Erie of the Eastern League, he posted a .344 average. While some of his minor league stats are incomplete, it’s his only known season putting up a .300+ average. His brother Sam Field played parts of two seasons in the majors, appearing in the National Association in 1875 and in the National League during its first year of existence in 1876.

The Opening Days

1919: The Pirates opened up in Chicago against the Cubs after a long layoff between games. The 1918 season was ended early due to the war, wrapping up on September 2nd. On April 24, 1919, Wilbur Cooper was on the mound on a very cold Chicago day and he took a 5-1 loss, with all the runs against him coming in the second inning. The Pirates lineup on that day, which had three future Hall of Famers in a row in the 2-4 spots, was as follows:

Howdy Caton, SS
Max Carey, CF
Casey Stengel, RF
Billy Southworth, LF
George Cutshaw, 2B
Tony Boeckel, 3B
Fritz Mollwitz, 1B
Walter Schmidt, C
Wilbur Cooper, P

1889: The Alleghenys opened their season at home against the Chicago White Stockings with an 8-5 win in front of 4,000 fans. Pud Galvin went the distance for Pittsburgh and was hit hard, plus he had some poor fielding behind him, but he held on for the win. Chicago took a 3-0 lead early before the Alleghenys tied it in the sixth. Chicago came back and scored two in the bottom of the inning (the home team did not always bat lead-off back before a rule changed that practice). Pittsburgh came back with five runs in the seventh and the game ended without another run. The Alleghenys lineup that day was:

Billy Sunday, RF
Ned Hanlon, CF
Jake Beckley, 1B
Fred Dunlap, 2B
Fred Carroll, LF
Doggie Miller, C
Bill Kuehne, 3B
Pop Smith, SS
Pud Galvin, P

Pittsburgh had a crazy schedule that season to open the year. They had eight home games, followed by 22 straight games on the road. They returned for a homestand against the Indianapolis Hoosiers that turned into just one game due to cancellations caused by the Johnstown Flood. They then played another ten straight on the road. That means between May 2 and June 19, they played just one home game.