This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 20th, George Grantham

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, two were teammates on the 1927-28 teams and they both played the same position.

Tony Sanchez, catcher for the 2013-15 Pirates. He was a first round pick, who had some injury issues in the minors, as well as a case of Steve Blass disease behind the plate. The Pirates made a reach for Sanchez in the 2009 draft so that they could spend big on prep pitching in the later rounds. He was a consensus first round pick, but not rated near fourth overall, which is where he was selected (out of Boston College). He spent most of his first season at Low-A ball, playing seven games total between two other levels. Sanchez hit .309 with seven homers and 48 RBIs in 48 games during his first pro season. The next year he was limited to 58 games due to injury. He hit .314 with 17 doubles and four homers for Bradenton, then played in the Arizona Fall League, where he put up a .687 OPS in 18 games. In 2011, Sanchez batted .241 in 118 games with Altoona, while collecting just 20 extra-base hits. He had better results in 2012 while splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A. Sanchez hit .251 with 26 doubles and eight homers in 102 games. He made his big league debut in June of 2013 and hit .233 with two homers in 22 games for the Pirates. He was a Triple-A All-Star that season thanks to a .288 average and 36 extra-base hits in 76 games. He had three stints with the Pirates in 2014, hitting .267 with two homers in 26 games. Sanchez started the 2015 season with the Pirates, but he was sent down on April 17th after playing just three games and he never returned. He played parts of three seasons with the Pirates and they made the playoffs all three years. In 51 games, he hit .259 with four homers and 18 RBIs. He was let go after the 2015 season and went on to spend time with six other teams, though his only big league time was a single pinch-hitting appearance for the 2017 Atlanta Braves. Sanchez, who last played in 2019, also spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers.

George Grantham, first baseman/second baseman for the 1925-31 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Grantham in a big trade on October 27, 1924. It was one that sent Pittsburgh’s all-time wins leader Wilbur Cooper, along with Charlie Grimm and future Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Grantham, Vic Aldridge and Al Niehaus. On name power alone, the Cubs got the three most famous players in the deal, but Grantham did a pretty good holding up his end of the deal all by himself.

Grantham debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1920, playing in the Pacific Coast League, which is an advanced level to start pro ball. He batted just ,225 with no homers in 58 games. It took him just one year to get on track. Grantham batted .325 with 38 extra-base hits in 117 games the next season. He spent 1922 with Omaha of the Western League, where he hit .359 in 157 games, with 47 doubles, 13 triples and 22 homers. That earned him a shot with the Cubs in September. After hitting .174 in seven games with Chicago in 1922, he was their starting second baseman in 1923. Grantham hit .281 with 50 extra-base hits, 81 runs scored, 70 RBIs and a career best 43 stolen bases, while playing a career high 152 games. His 36 doubles were also a career high. When he came to the Pirates, he was coming off a season in which he hit .316 with 55 walks and 60 RBIs in 127 games. He also stole 64 bases over the two full seasons he spent in Chicago, but that total is a bit deceiving as he was caught stealing 49 times, including a league leading 28 times in 1923. He also led the National League in strikeouts in both 1923 and 1924. Grantham had also led all second baseman in errors each of his two full seasons with Chicago. Despite those negatives, he still managed to put up 7.2 WAR in Chicago, so he was clearly a valuable player before the trade.

Grantham moved to first base with the Pirates in 1925, batting a career high of .326 his first season in Pittsburgh. He split first base with veteran Stuffy McInnis later in the year, which limited him to 114 games that season, but he still finished with a .906 OPS due to a strong walk rate and 38 extra-base hits. That 1925 team went to the World Series and won in seven games. While Grantham helped them get there, in the series he all but disappeared, going 2-for-15 at the plate, while sitting out two games. In 1926, he hit .318 with 70 RBIs and 60 walks, finishing sixth in the NL with an .890 OPS. He was moved back to his original position of second base when Joe Harris (see below) joined the team in 1927. Grantham still occasionally played some first base that year after starting the first 19 games of the season at the position. He hit .305 with 66 RBIs and 74 walks, while scoring 96 runs. Pittsburgh was back in the World Series that year and he hit .364, although he didn’t score or drive in any runs.

Grantham moved back to first base in 1928 and had a big season at the plate, hitting .323 with 85 RBIs and 93 runs scored, but it wasn’t his best year in Pittsburgh. His shuffling around the field continued in 1929, getting most of his time at second base, while also seeing action in left field and first base. He posted a career high .987 OPS in 110 games that season, driving in 90 runs, scoring 85 times and drawing 93 walks. His best season at the plate may have been the 1930 season, which was a great year for offense in baseball. Grantham hit .324 with 81 walks and set career highs in RBIs (99), homers (18), triples (14) and runs scored with 120, which was the team high that season. He had a decent 1931 season, though he began to show a decline in his game. After hitting .305 with 91 runs scored in 127 games that year, Grantham was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. He still had one good season left in him, hitting .292 for the Reds in 1932.

He hit .204 in 87 games for the 1933 Reds, then had a .241 average as a bench player for the 1934 New York Giants, before finishing his career in the minors in 1935. Grantham was a .302 career hitter in 1,444 games over 13 seasons. With the Pirates he hit .315 in 913 games with 625 runs scored, 191 doubles, 69 triples, 74 homers, 508 RBIs, 488 walks, a .410 OBP and .901 OPS. His OBP ranks sixth in team history and of the five playes ahead of him, only Arky Vaughan had more plate appearances. His OPS ranks fifth in team history and only Ralph Kiner (among players ahead of him) had more plate appearances. You can read more on Grantham in our first Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates article.

Joe Harris, first baseman for the 1927-28 Pirates. Although he lost years in the majors to WWI and a suspension from baseball, Harris had a pro career that lasted 24 years. He began in 1908 at 17 years old, playing for McKeesport of the Ohio-Penn League where he was teammates with former Pirates player Jock Menefee, who was 40 years old. The team also had Dots Miller, Ray Miller and Gus Getz, all future Pirates players. After playing semi-pro ball, Harris came back to pro ball in 1912. In 1913, he played for Bay City of the Class-D South Michigan League, where he hit .329 with 42 extra-base hits in 96 games. Harris made the majors for the first time in 1914, getting into two mid-season games with the New York Yankees, but the majority of the season was spent back with Bay City, where he hit .386 with 71 extra-base hits and 42 steals in 139 games. He moved up to Chattanooga of the Southern Association for the 1915-16 seasons and batted .258 with 45 extra-base hits his first year, followed by a .309 average and 43 extra-base hits in 141 games in 1916. Harris made it back to the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 1917 as their regular first baseman. He hit .304 with 65 RBIs that first full season in the majors. He then missed the entire 1918 season due to the war, returning to the Indians at the end of June in 1919. His baseball skills obviously did not suffer from the time off. In the last 62 games of that 1919 season, He hit .375 with 33 walks and 46 RBIs.

In 1920, he decided to sign with a semi-pro team after they offered him a much better deal than the Indians. That prompted the commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Landis, to give Harris a lifetime ban from baseball. The ban was lifted two years later by Landis, citing the service by Harris during WWI. Before he was reinstated, Harris was traded to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that included Stuffy McInnis, who Harris would cross paths with again. From 1922 until very early in 1925, he manned either first base or a corner outfield spot for Boston, hitting .315 with 209 RBIs in 402 games. Harris batted over .300 during all three full seasons in Boston, topping out at .339 in 1923, when he also set personal bests with 82 runs scored, 11 triples and 13 homers. The next year he set highs with 36 doubles and 77 RBIs, while matching his runs scored total from the previous year. Harris received mild MVP support during the 1923-24 seasons, finishing 18th and 20th in the voting.

Harris was traded to the Washington Senators in late April of 1925 and helped them to the World Series, where they faced the Pirates. He hit .440 in that series, collecting 11 hits, three homers and six RBIs, but the Pirates still pulled out the win in seven games. The first baseman for the Pirates during that series was the aforementioned Stuffy McInnis, whose name with come up again quickly. After hitting .307 in 1926 at the age of 35, Harris was put on waivers. He made it through the entire American League, so the Pirates were able to pick him up to replace McInnis. In 1927, Pittsburgh went back to the World Series for the second time in three years and Harris was a big part, hitting .326 with 73 RBIs in 139 games. He had a much different postseason in Pittsburgh, going 3-for-15 with one RBI and no runs scored. In 1928, he saw limited action but hit well, batting .391 in 16 games through June. On June 8th, he was dealt to the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) along with catcher Johnny Gooch, in exchange for catcher Charles Hargreaves. Harris played outfield for Brooklyn and did not hit well, batting .236 in 55 games. He returned to the minors the next year, playing three more seasons before retiring at 40 years old in 1931. In 970 Major League games, he had a .317 career average, with 516 RBIs, 461 runs scored and a .404 career on base percentage. Hal Reniff, a pitcher during the 1960s for the Yankees and New York Mets, is the nephew of Harris.