Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one game of note.
On this date in 1951, Cliff Chambers pitched the second complete game no-hitter in team history. In 1907, Nick Maddox pitched the first complete game (nine innings) no-hitter. Howie Camnitz also tossed a shortened no-hitter in 1907, with the game being called due to darkness. One year earlier, Lefty Leifield pitched a shortened no-hitter during the second game of a doubleheader. For Chambers, it was not your typical no-hitter. He didn’t dominate the Boston Braves that day, walking eight hitters, while striking out four. He also threw two wild pitches. Boston had base runners in six different innings. The Pirates won 3-0 that day, with Chambers driving in the third run. Just like with Leifield’s game (and the other two shortened no-hitters), Chambers was also pitching the second game of a doubleheader. Here’s the boxscore from Baseball-Reference. The Pirates traded Chambers to the St Louis Cardinals just six weeks after his no-hitter.
Alberto Lois, outfielder/pinch-runner for the 1978-79 Pirates. He was a talented player who had questionable desire to play the game according to many. Lois was signed as an 18-year-old in 1974 out of the Dominican Republic and he went right to A-ball, where he hit .260 with 51 walks and 37 stolen bases in 119 games. That season would be the only one in which he played 100 games due to injuries and assorted ailments. He was still able to move up the minor league ladder quickly due to hitting .302 with 24 steals in 83 games in 1975 in the Carolina League. Lois then improved to a .316 average and 33 steals over 96 games the next year, splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A. He slipped to .282 in 1977 at Triple-A and he played only 49 games, but the Pirates were still considering him for their 1978 Opening Day roster. He ended up spending the year in the minors and missing half of the season, playing a total of 73 minor league games that year. In September he got called up to the majors for the first time and played just two games through the end of the month, once as a pinch-runner and once as a defensive replacement in left field, without getting a plate appearance. The Pirates were eliminated from the playoffs in the next to last game of the year. The next day, Lois got the start in left field and he went 1-for-4 with a triple. In 1979, he played just 18 minor league games before getting recalled in mid-August, though he was returned to the minors for a short time just days later until the rosters expanded on September 1st. He got into eleven of the last 42 games of the season for the Pirates, all as a pinch-runner. He scored six runs and stole one base. When the Pirates split up World Series shares after winning their fifth championship, Lois was one of eight players to get $250 cash grants. Four of those players never left the bench in September, and one (Harry Saferight) never played a big league game. Lois was injured in a car accident in the Dominican during the 1979-80 off-season and never returned to play ball. The Pirates signed him for 1980 and placed him on the disabled list, but an eye injury from the accident left him unable to play again.
Dick Cole, infielder for the Pirates in 1951 and then from 1953 until 1956. He was originally signed by the St Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1943, but didn’t make his big league debut until the 1951 season. Despite being just 17 years old in 1943, Cole debuted in the Pacific Coast League, just one step from the majors. He batted .224 in 26 games, with one extra-base hit (a triple) and one walk. The next year he moved down two levels to Allentown of the Interstate League. Through the beginning of August, he was batting .281 with 28 extra-base hits in 97 games, before Uncle Sam came calling. He missed the end of 1944, all of 1945 and part of 1946 while serving in the Army. Cole played 37 games during the 1946 season for Columbus of the American Association, then split the 1947 season between three teams, including a stint with Columbus. Most of the season was spent four levels lower in Class-C ball, where he tore up the level with a .386 average in 83 games. He joined Rochester of the International League to start the 1948 season and remained there through the end of the 1950 season. He had a .681 OPS in 1948, but his average fell to .236 in 1949 and so did his OPS, despite drawing 71 walks. That new found plate patience helped him the next season when he batted .278 with 76 walks and 93 runs scored in 135 games. He would make the Cardinals out of Spring Training and he hit .194 through the first two months of the season, getting the bulk of his playing time at second base when Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst was out five games with an eye injury from an errant bunt in late April, then missed ten more games a day after he returned due to the flu.
On June 15, 1951, the Cardinals traded Cole along with four other players (including Joe Garagiola) to the Pirates for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake. Cole ended up playing 42 games for the Pirates in 1951, hitting .236 with 11 RBIs, getting most of his time at second base. He spent all of 1952 in the minors, returning to Pittsburgh in 1953 in a platoon role at shortstop. That year Cole hit a career high .272 in 97 games. The next year he played a career high 138 games, seeing plenty of time at both third base and shortstop. He hit .270 with 40 RBIs. Cole’s average and playing time dropped each of the next two seasons, hitting .226 in 239 at-bats in 1955 and .212 in 99 at-bats the next year. Right before the 1957 season started, the Pirates traded him to the Braves for Jim Pendleton. Cole played 15 games for the Braves, while also playing part of the season in the minors. He then played two more seasons in the minors before retiring. In 426 games with the Pirates, he hit .249 with two homers, 107 RBIs and 106 runs scored. After his playing days were over he was a coach for some time, then moved into scouting, including a stint with the Pirates.
Earl Turner, catcher for the 1948 and 1950 Pirates. He was originally signed by the New York Giants in 1942 and would start serving in the military during WWII before his first seasons was done. He was 19 years old in 1942, playing for Jacksonville of the Class-B South Atlantic League, where he hit .259 in 68 games. Turner missed all of the next three seasons while in the Army. He returned to pro ball in 1946, spending the year in the minors with Evansville of the Three-I League, where he hit .290 with 27 extra-base hits in 73 games. Turner was actually with Evansville on option from Indianapolis of the American Association, which had a working agreement with the Pirates. Evansville was actually a Braves affiliate at the time, but the fact that he belonged to Indianapolis, meant that the Pirates had the first shot at adding them to their roster. Turner spent the 1947 season at Albany, where he hit .305 in 94 games. At the end of the year, his contract was purchased by the Pirates, who assigned him on option to Indianapolis in 1948, where he hit .313 in 85 games. The Pirates called him up in late September for the last week of the season. He came in late as a defensive replacement at catcher one game and pinch-hit in another. Turner spent the 1949 season in the minors, although he almost played for the Pirates. In the middle of July, the Pirates had two catchers get injured at the same time and they recalled Turner. As he was on the train to Pittsburgh, the Pirates were able to work out a deal for Braves catcher Phil Masi. When Turner got to Pittsburgh, they put him right back on a train to Indianapolis. In 1950, he made the Pirates roster out of Spring Training as their third-string catcher. Through 82 team games, he got 13 starts behind the plate, hitting .243 in 74 at-bats. The Pirates sent him to the minors on July 20, 1950 after they purchased Bob Dillinger from the Philadelphia A’s. Turner would not return to the majors, finishing his playing career two seasons later in the minors with Indianapolis. His time with the Pirates officially ended on November 19, 1950 when he was one of three players released outright by the team.
Bob Chesnes, pitcher for the 1948-50 Pirates. Pittsburgh paid a heavy price to get Chesnes from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in September of 1947. It cost them four players and $100,000 in cash. A month before the trade he was nursing a sore arm and shortly after the deal he underwent minor elbow surgery, but the Pirates were obviously still high on him. It was said at the time that even if he didn’t make it as a pitcher, he would be able to play shortstop in the majors and hit well. Chesnes wasn’t a young phenom when he joined the Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1941 at 20 years old, playing for Class-C Bakersfield of the California League. He went 9-11, 3.42 in 158 innings. He played for three different teams in 1942, seeing time as low as Class-C ball, and also all the way up at the Pacific Coast League, which was basically a step below the majors. He joined the Coast Guard during WWII and missed the entire 1943-45 seasons. He returned in 1946, going to Salt Lake City of the Pioneer League (Class-C), where he had an 18-6, 1.52 record in 225 innings.
Chesnes went 22-8, 2.32 in 233 innings for the Seals in 1947 and he carried that success over to the majors in his first season. In the 1948 season, he went 14-6 for the fourth place Pirates, with a 3.57 ERA in 194.1 innings. In 1949 he really struggled, at one point taking the loss in nine straight starts. He showed glimpses of the pitcher he was during the previous season, but he also had some extremely poor starts. In 1950, Chesnes was again pitching poorly when the Pirates decided to send him to the minors. He would return to pitch just one more game, a late season start in which he gave up four runs in one inning before being pulled. He played in the minors briefly during the 1951 season and was still in the Pirates plans late in 1951, but never played pro ball again. He was used 26 times as a pinch-hitter during his brief Major League career and had a .256 lifetime average. He voluntarily retired after the 1951 season due to multiple arm injuries, though he hoped to continue playing as a position player in the minors, which the Pirates wouldn’t allow him to do. He then wanted to become an umpire in the minor leagues in 1952, but general manager Branch Rickey refused to release him, so he had to wait until 1953 to take up that position. In his three big league seasons, Chesnes went 24-22, 4.66 in 378.2 innings.
Luke Boone, shortstop for the 1918 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., who had a long career in pro ball. Boone was born in Pittsburgh in 1890, passed away there in 1982 and can still be found in Pittsburgh, resting peacefully in Jefferson Memorial Park. He played 20 seasons in the minors, managed for five years (four as a player/manager) and spent another five seasons in the majors. Playing for the New York Yankees from 1913-16 (full-time in 1914-15) he got into 288 games around the infield (SS/2B/3B) and hit .210 with 95 runs scored. He was in the majors by age 23, just one year after his pro career began in Class-D ball, playing for Steubenville of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League. Boone spent the 1913 season with Dallas of the Texas League, where he hit just .223 in 147 games, with no homers. Despite the poor offense and being in a league that was considered to be three levels before the majors, Boone made his big league debut that September and hit .333 with three walks in six games for the Yankees. The next year he started 90 games at second base and saw some brief time at third base. He batted .222 with no homers, leading to a .539 OPS. He had a rough time on the bases as well, getting thrown out 18 times in 28 attempts. He stayed in the lineup because he was above average defensively, leading all American League second basemen in range factor. Boone was even better defensively in 1915, posting a 1.9 dWAR, which was third best for all position players in the AL. His hitting wasn’t much better than the previous year, with a .204 average and an identical .285 OBP from the previous year. He showed a little more power, hitting his first five career homers, but his slugging percentage still came in at a .276 mark. He also got thrown out stealing more times than he was successful again. Boone was mostly a bench player in 1916, with just over half of his playing time coming in July when he was replacing an injured Frank “Home Run” Baker, the Hall of Fame third baseman, who got injured chasing a foul ball.
In 1917, Boone spent the season with Toledo of the American Association, where he hit .235 in 111 games. He began the 1918 season back at Toledo before joining the Pirates on July 26th. Toledo was done for the season, ending early due to the ongoing war, and Boone was considered to be a free agent. He was actually said to be looking for offers from an independent team, and was negotiating with the team from Oil City, but the Pirates came calling just days after he arrived back home. He got his first taste of action eight days after he joined the team. Boone started off hitting strong with a .350 batting average through his first twelve games, but he finished the season with a 4-for-47 streak that dropped his average to .198, and ended his Major League career.He was thrown in as the starting shortstop on August 11th and held the job until September 2nd, which was the final day of the season that year due to the war. Days later, he was one of eight Major League players (mostly Pirates) to get a job at a local plant, which also had a baseball team that they all played for that September. He was returned to Toledo after the season and was a contract holdout in 1919, before being sold to St Paul of the American Association, where he played the next seven seasons. He was still active in the minors 17 years after leaving the Pirates without getting another big league shot. His last three years as a player were spent with Crookston of the Northern League, where he also served as a player. He played his final game at 45 years old. Boone collected over 2,200 hits during his pro career. His actual first name was Lute, which is how he was known while in Pittsburgh.
Ed Karger, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. He pitched one year in the minors before signing with the Pirates for the 1906 season. Karger, who was born in Texas, went 24-8 in 1905 for Houston of the South Texas League at 21 years old after being discovered pitching amateur ball. In October of 1905, it was announced that Karger and his teammate Bill Sorrells (a 19-game winner) were drafted by the Pirates and they would get a chance with the team in Spring Training. Karger had an interesting start to his time with the Pirates. His arrival in Spring Training was delayed so he could pitch an exhibition game for Houston against the St Louis Cardinals. The reason he stayed was because they were paying him $25 to pitch that day. His Spring Training performance should have kept him with the Pirates much longer than it did. He made three starts and threw a total of 16 shutout innings. If that wasn’t good enough, then maybe his regular season performance should have helped too. In two starts and four relief appearances for Pittsburgh in 1906, he had a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings. During his second start, which happened eleven games into the season, he was pulled after just five innings by Fred Clarke, despite giving up only three runs on three hits and three walks. The newspapers said he was still pitching well at the time he was taken out. The crowd was relentless in their displeasure for Clarke’s move and they let him know about it every chance they got. The boos got worse as the Pirates new pitcher (Mike Lynch) started getting hit hard and the team lost by six runs that day. Karger was moved to a relief role after that game. The Pirates traded him to the Cardinals on June 3, 1906 for pitcher Chappie MacFarland, who won just one Major League game after the trade. It was said at the time that the Pirates wanted to send Karger to the minors for more experience and St Louis blocked the deal, so instead of keeping him, they traded him for a veteran pitcher, after first backing down from a cash only offer. Manager Fred Clarke also noted that the Pirates didn’t need three lefty pitchers at the time, and Karger was the one selected to go. They actually kept Homer Hillebrand instead, who pitched 30 big league innings after Karger left.
Karger went on to win another 46 games after the trade, including a very special game on August 11, 1907. In the second game of a doubleheader, which was agreed upon to be seven innings before the game started, Karger pitched a perfect game. While it’s not recognized as a perfect game now because it didn’t go nine innings, he still retired all 21 batters he faced that day. Even though he was 19 games under .500 for his career, he still had a lifetime 2.79 ERA. Karger was hurt by pitching for bad teams, which showed in the rest of his 1906 season after the trade. He went 5-16, 2.72 in 191.2 innings with the Cardinals in 1906. The next season he was 15-19, despite a 2.04 ERA in 314 innings. His ERA went up to 3.06 in 1908, which was above average for the deadball era. He had a 4-9 record and threw 141.1 innings. He split the 1909 season between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, seeing relief work mixed in with his starts in each place. He went 6-5, 3.61 in 102.1 innings. He pitched better during his final two seasons, both spent with Boston. Karger went 11-7, 3.19 in 183.1 innings in 1910. The next season he was 5-8, 3.37 in 131 innings. He went to the minors in 1912 and pitched on and off through age 38 in 1921. We wrote more about Karger here in a One Who Got Away article.