This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 2nd, First Game in Franchise History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus the most important game in franchise history took place 139 years ago today.

The Players

Neftali Feliz, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was signed as a free agent prior to 2016, after spending 6 1/2 seasons with the Texas Rangers and the last part of 2015 with the Detroit Tigers. Feliz made 62 appearances during his lone season with the Pirates. He posted a 3.62 ERA in 53.2 innings, with 61 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP. He signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017, which ended up being his last season in the majors, though he finished the year with the Kansas City Royals. In 357 games (350 as a reliever), he had a 3.49 ERA in 389.1 innings, with 107 career saves. Feliz originally signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old with the Atlanta Braves in 2005. Two years later, he was traded to the Rangers in the seven-player Mark Teixeira deal. Feliz was still in short-season ball at the time. In his first full season with the Rangers, he split the year between Low-A and Double-A. He was known as a reliever in the majors, but he made a total of 27 starts in 2008, combining to go 10-6, 2.69 in 127.1 innings, with 153 strikeouts. After that performance, he was rated as the tenth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Feliz moved up to Triple-A for 2009 and split his time between starting and relieving. He had a 3.49 ERA in 77.1 innings with 75 strikeouts before being called up to the majors in August. In 20 big league appearances, he had a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings. He moved into the closer role for the Rangers in 2010, where he was an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year. In 69.1 innings over 70 appearances, he had a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves. Feliz had a similar season in 2011, posting a 2.74 ERA in 62.1 innings, while picking up 32 saves. His next two seasons were almost completely lost to Tommy John surgery. He pitched a total of 47.1 innings between his appearances early in 2012 and his return in September of 2013. In 2014, the Rangers had him in the minors for part of the season, but once he returned in July, he pitched great. In 30 appearances, he had a 1.99 ERA in 31.2 innings, while picking up 13 saves. Prior to his season with the Pirates, Feliz struggled through 2015 and was traded to the Tigers midway through the season. He had a 4.58 ERA in 18 outings with the Rangers and put up a 7.62 mark in 30 outings with Detroit. After his final big league game in 2017, Feliz spent the 2018 season in Triple-A for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That was his last season in the minors, but he has played winter ball the last three off-seasons in the Dominican.

Jose Ascanio, pitcher for the 2009-11 Pirates. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 2001 at 16 years old out of Venezuela. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2002, then moved up to the Gulf Coast League in 2003, where he posted a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings. Ascanio pitched the entire 2004 season in Low-A, where he had a 3.84 record in 65.2 innings. He was limited to 20.2 innings during the 2005 season in High-A, then split 2006 between High-A and Double-A, combining to go 5-3, 4.57 in 69 innings. He spent most of 2007 in Double-A, where he had a 2.54 ERA and ten saves in 78 innings over 40 appearances. Ascanio made his big league debut that July without a single appearance in Triple-A. He was up for three weeks in the majors, then returned to Double-A on August 1st, only to jump back to the majors on August 24th. He ended up pitching 13 games out of the bullpen for Atlanta that season. In 16 innings, he struck out 13 and had a 5.06 ERA. The Braves traded him to the Chicago Cubs in December 2007 and Ascanio struggled in his brief six game stay in the majors the following season, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings. He didn’t do much better in Triple-A, putting up a 5.10 ERA in 54.2 innings. In 2009 he pitched much better in Chicago, posting a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings with 18 strikeouts. On July 30, 2009, the Pirates acquired him along with Josh Harrison and Kevin Hart in exchange for pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. Ascanio ended up getting injured after just two games and missed the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 (except for two rehab appearances) with a shoulder injury. He made it back to the majors in mid-May of 2011, but lasted just eight games before he was designated for assignment and sent back to the minors for the rest of the season. He allowed five runs in 6.1 innings with the Pirates that season. Ascanio left via free agency following the 2011 season and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2012, though he never pitched in the majors/minors after 2011. He played summer ball in Mexico in 2013-15 and 2018. Ascanio has played 13 seasons of winter ball in Venezuela, including the 2020-21 winter league season. He went 1-3, 5.28 in 46 innings over 43 appearances in his big league career.

Clay Carroll, pitcher for the 1978 Pirates. He had a successful 15-year career in the majors as a reliever, pitching 1,353.1 innings over 731 games, with 96 wins, a 2.94 ERA and 143 saves. He was an outstanding playoff pitcher during his career, posting a 1.39 ERA in 32.1 innings over 22 appearances. His career was near the end when he signed with the Pirates as a free agent after the Chicago White Sox had released him just prior to the start of the 1978 season. Carroll pitched 59 games and 101.1 innings during the 1977 season, posting a 2.75 ERA. He spent most of 1978 in the minors, joining the Pirates in September when the rosters expanded. He pitched 31 times in Triple-A, where he had a 3.90 ERA in 60 innings, while saving seven games. In the majors he saw very limited action, pitching at the end of a 10-3 loss on September 11th, and then he pitched two more innings 20 days later on the last day of the season. Both of his outings were against the Philadelphia Phillies. Carroll was released following the season and he pitched briefly in the minors in 1979 with the Milwaukee Brewers before retiring.

Carroll was an amateur free agent signing at 20 years old in 1961 by the Milwaukee Braves. He had a 4.20 ERA in 122 innings in 1961, pitching Class-D ball, which was the lowest level of the minors at the time. He moved up one step in 1962 and had a solid season, going 14-7, 3.83 in 181 innings. Carroll split the 1963 season between Double-A and Triple-A, combining to go 11-11, 4.30 in 182 innings. He pitched for the same two teams/levels in 1964, going 10-8, 3.25 in 144 innings. That performance led to a shot at the majors in September, where he went 2-0, 1.77 in 20.1 innings for the Braves. Carroll split the 1965 season between starting in Triple-A and pitching in relief with Milwaukee. He had a 4.41 ERA in 34.2 innings with the Braves. He spent all of 1966 in the majors, as the Braves moved the franchise to Atlanta. Carroll went 8-7, 2.37, with 11 saves, in 144.1 innings over a league leading 73 appearances. His performance dropped off greatly in 1967, with a 6-12, 5.52 record in 93 innings. He started off 1968 poorly, then bounced back in June after being part of a six-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a 4.84 ERA prior to the deal and a 2.29 mark after the trade. With the Reds over the final 3 1/2 months, he made 58 appearances, threw 121.2 innings, and piled up 17 saves. He was a workhorse in 1969, piling up 150.2 innings over 71 appearances. He went 12-6 with a 3.52 ERA.

In 1970, Carroll went 9-4, 2.95, with 16 saves, in 104.1 innings over 65 appearances. He was outstanding in the playoffs, throwing a total of 10.1 scoreless innings over six appearances, as the Reds lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. He was even better in 1971, as he seemed to thrive with fewer innings per season. He went 10-4, 2.50 with 15 saves, in 93.2 innings over 61 games. He also made his first All-Star appearance that season. He had a strong 1972 season as well, putting up a 2.25 ERA in 96 innings, while leading the league with 65 appearances and a career high 37 saves. That save total was an MLB record, though it lasted just one season before being broken by John Hiller in 1974. Carroll pitched five times in the World Series that year, allowing one run over 5.2 innings, though the Reds lost to the Oakland A’s. He made his second (and final) All-Star appearance in 1972, while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting and 13th in the MVP voting. Carroll wasn’t as sharp in 1973, with an 8-8, 3.69 record in 92.2 innings, with 14 saves. It was his last year as a regular closer, though he still picked up 24 saves over his final five seasons. In the playoffs, he allowed one run over seven innings. Carroll had a strong 1974 season, going 12-5, 2.15 in 100.2 innings. He was nearly as good in 1975 when the Reds broke through to win the World Series. During the season, he had a 7-5, 2.62 record in 96.1 innings. In the playoffs, he allowed two runs over 6.2 innings. He was traded to the White Sox after the season and went 4-4, 2.56 in 77.1 innings. The White Sox traded him to the St Louis Cardinals, who dealt him back to the White Sox that same August, seven months before he joined the Pirates.

Freddy Sale, pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. With Pittsburgh down 7-3 to the Cardinals in the eighth inning on June 30, 1924, Fred Sale just recently out of the University of Georgia, made his Major League debut. He allowed singles to the first two batters he faced, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters and a double play later, Sale left the mound without allowing a run. The Pirates were unable to make a comeback and Sale’s big league career was over. He was signed by the Pirates on May 22, 1924, though they had scouts watching his starts much earlier that season. His college career record was reported as being 24-7 when he signed with the Pirates. He originally joined the Pirates on May 28th and was put into immediate service as a batting practice pitcher. Sale pitched an exhibition game for the Pirates against a strong team from Kingston, NY on June 15th. He threw nine shutout innings, but ended up with a no decision in a game the Pirates won 2-0 in ten innings. Five days after his lone big league game, Sale was sent to the minors, where he would pitch two seasons for the Wilson Bugs of the Virginia League before his pro baseball career was also over. The Pirates announced in September of 1924 that Sale would be retained for the 1925 season, but on December 3, 1924 he was sold to Wilson, ending his time with the Pirates. He had a 20-13, 4.21 minor league record in 306 innings. On April 30, 1923, while in college, Sale pitched a perfect game against the Univ. of Virginia, striking out eight batters in his 4-0 victory.

The Game

On this date in 1882, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first game in franchise history.  It was also the first game in the history of the Cincinnati Reds franchise. The Alleghenys won that day despite a one-sided pitching match-up in favor of the Red Stockings. Will White was on the mound for Cincinnati. In 1879 he set records that will never be broken, with 75 complete games and 680 innings pitched. Jack Leary was on the mound for the Alleghenys. He had a career 0-3 record at that point and actually played more games at shortstop, center field, right field and third base than he did as a pitcher in his career. He won just three games in his career including a 10-9 win over 229-game winner Will White on May 2, 1882. The Alleghenys were down 7-4 after three innings, before scoring runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take the lead. The Red Stockings added a run in the ninth, but their rally fell short.