Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Phil Coke, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in 2001 by the Florida Marlins in the 49th round. He attended San Joaquin Delta College and the New York Yankees picked him up in the 26th round in 2002. He signed as a draft-and-follow player, inking his deal in late May of 2013. Coke went to the Gulf Coast League his first year and had a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings. In 2004, he pitched just 19.1 innings, mostly back in the GCL, though he also pitched two levels higher in the New York-Penn League. In 2005, he was in Low-A the entire year, going 8-11, 5.42 in 103 innings, making 18 starts and six relief appearances. The 2006 season was split between a brief successful stint in Low-A (one run in 17 innings) and High-A, where he had a 3.60 ERA in 110 innings in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Coke spent the entire 2007 season back in the FSL, going 7-3, 3.09 in 99 innings. He was a starter in Double-A in 2008, going 9-4, 2.51 in 118.1 innings. That led to a promotion to Triple-A, where he pitched in relief, posting a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 innings. The Yankees called him up in September and he did great, allowing one run in 14.2 innings. In 2009, he made 72 appearances in relief for the Yankees, going 4-3, 4.50 in 60 innings. He had five scoreless appearances in the playoffs that year before allowing two runs in his final game, but the Yankees still won the title.
In December of 2009, Coke was part of a large three-team trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers. For Detroit in 2010, he had a 3.76 ERA in 64.2 innings over 74 appearances. He became a starter for part of 2011, making 14 starts and 34 relief appearances that season. He had a 3-9, 4.47 record in a career high 108.2 innings. In 2012, Coke pitched strictly in relief, posting a 4.00 ERA in 54 innings over 66 appearances. He struggled in 2013, with a 5.40 ERA in 38.1 innings over 49 games. He bounced back a bit in 2014, going 5-2, 3.88 in 62 games and 58 innings. He became a free agent after the season and had a wild 2015 that saw him get released by the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s between May and August. He had a 5.68 ERA in 18 appearances that season. Coke signed with the Atlanta Braves for 2016, but he was released after 17 days of Spring Training. He signed with the Yankees a month later and spent most of the year in Triple-A. He pitched six innings over three outings with the Yankees. The Pirates needed pitching at the end of 2016 and they picked up Coke from Yankees in a purchase deal for $1. The cost was that low because his season ended a week earlier in the minors and the Yankees had no intentions of calling him up to the majors. Since there has to be an actual transaction to switch teams, the deal was for the lowest amount allowed by MLB. Coke joined the Pirates on September 22, 2016 and pitched three games in relief, tossing four shutout innings. It ended up being his last big league experience. He pitched in Japan in 2017 and Mexico in 2018. Coke spent parts of nine seasons in the majors, going 22-27, 4.19 in 421 innings, with 15 starts and 392 relief appearances.
Ernesto Frieri, pitcher for the 2014 Pirates. He signed with the San Diego Padres as an amateur free agent out of Colombia in January of 2003 at 17 years old. He played in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2003 and the Dominican Summer League in 2004, before making his debut in the U.S. in 2005. Frieri had a 1.17 ERA in 46.1 innings in the Arizona Rookie League in 2005 before getting a late promotion to High-A to finish the season. In 2006, he spent most of the year in the short-season Northwestern League, where he had a 3.82 ERA in 37.2 innings. The 2007 season was split between Low-A (40 games) and High-A (13 games). He combined for a 2.29 ERA in 86.1 innings. In 2008, Frieri had a 4.00 ERA in High-A, pitching in the hitter-friendly California League. He made very brief stops in Double-A and Triple-A that season. He spent the 2009 season in Double-A, pitching for San Antonio of the Texas League, where he went 10-9, 3.59 in 140.1 innings as a starting pitcher. He debuted in the majors late that season, with two relief appearances for the Padres. The majority of the 2010 season was spent in Triple-A, where he had a 1.43 ERA in 34 appearances, with 17 saves. Frieri pitched equally as well with the Padres, posting a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings over 33 games. In 59 games with the 2011 Padres, he had a 2.71 ERA in 63 innings.
Frieri got off to a strong start in 2012 and he was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in early May. He was put in the closer role and finished the season with a 5-2, 2.32 record, with 23 saves and 98 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched over 67 appearances. In 2013, he saved 37 games, seventh most in the league. Frieri had a 3.80 ERA in 68.2 innings, once again striking out 98 batters. He was acquired mid-season 2014 by the Pirates in exchange for reliever Jason Grilli. Both pitchers were struggling with their old teams. Frieri had 11 saves, but it came with a 6.39 ERA in 31 innings. After the trade, Grilli did better with the Angels, while Frieri did much worse with the Pirates and was gone after just 14 appearances. He posted a 10.13 ERA in 10.2 innings. After being released by the Pirates, Frieri spent time with six different clubs, though most of that time was spent in the minors. He pitched just 28 games total in the majors over his last three years, with his last appearance coming in 2017. He had a 4.63 ERA in 22 games for the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays, then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2016. He was released by the Phillies on April 6, 2016, and didn’t pitch again until winter ball in Venezuela. In 2017, he spent time with the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. He appeared in his final six big league games with the Rangers that season. He finished his career by playing winter ball and summer ball in Mexico, from late 2017 through the 2018-19 winter season. In his eight-year big league career, Frieri had a 3.59 ERA in 303.1 innings over 304 appearances, with 73 saves.
Brian Smith, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was drafted out of college by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1994, taken in the 27th round out of UNC Wilmington. He had a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings for Medicine Hat of the Pioneer League in his pro debut. Smith moved up to Low-A in 1995 and had an incredible season in relief, posting an 0.87 ERA in 104 innings, with 101 strikeouts and 21 saves in 47 appearances. He skipped to Double-A for 1996 and had a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 innings, with 16 saves. He moved to a starting role in Triple-A in 1997, going 7-11, 5.33 in 138.1 innings. Smith switched back to relief in 1998 and spent most of the season in Double-A, where he went 4-2, 4.06 over 71 innings, with seven saves in 42 appearances. The 1999 season was split evenly between Double-A and Triple-A, pitching 29 games at each level. Combined that season, he had an 8-7, 4.20 record in 81.1 innings, with 20 saves. The Pirates picked up Smith as a Rule 5 draft pick in December of 1999, but he was soon diagnosed with a torn rotator and torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. After surgery and an impressively quick recovery time, Smith was back on the mound in Double-A in the middle of the 2000 season. After posting an 0.81 ERA in 27 minor league appearances, the Pirates made him a September call-up. He was strong in his first outing, throwing a shutout inning with two strikeouts. In his other two games, he ran into trouble, giving up five earned runs over 3.1 innings of work. Smith was released after the season, though he re-signed with the Pirates on a minor league deal. He spent two seasons in the Pirates farm system, mostly at Triple-A Nashville, before finishing his career with the Colorado Rockies and an independent team in 2003, never making it back to the big leagues. He finished up his pro career with exactly 100 saves.
Vicente Palacios, pitcher for the 1987-88 and 1990-92 Pirates. He was originally signed out of the Mexican League by the Chicago White Sox in 1984, spending two seasons in their minor league system before being released. He debuted in his home country of Mexico in 1983 before joining Chicago. At 19 years old in that 1983 season, he had a 12-6 record and he threw 165.1 innings. He started the 1984 season in Mexico and had a 7-8, 3.52 record in 128 innings before joining Glen Falls of the Double-A Eastern League to finish the season. He went 1-2, 2.49 in five starts after joining the White Sox system. In 1985, he made four starts and four relief appearances for Glen Falls, posting a 4.76 ERA in 39.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent back on loan to a team in Mexico, where he went 7-2, 3.87 for the Mexico City Reds. Palacios spent the entire 1986 season in Mexico, posting a 5-14, 4.41 record. He was released by the White Sox on November 20, 1986. The Pirates quickly signed him two weeks later, only to lose him in the 1986 Rule 5 draft to the Milwaukee Brewers four days later. They were able to get him back at the end of Spring Training when he didn’t make the Brewers Opening Day roster.
During his first five years with the Pirates, Palacios bounced between Triple-A and the majors, twice missing significant time due to shoulder surgery. He went 13-5, 2.58 in 185 innings at Triple-A in his first season with the Pirates. He debuted in the majors in September of 1987, making four starts and two relief appearances. He had a 4.30 ERA in 29.1 innings. He pitched a total of 12 times in 1988, posting a 1.99 ERA in Triple-A and a 6.66 mark in 24.1 innings with the Pirates at the beginning of the season. His 1989 season was limited to two games in Triple-A. In 1990, Palacios went 13-7, 3.43 in 183.2 innings. He moved to a relief role when he joined the Pirates in September and threw 15 scoreless innings over seven appearances. After pitching 20 total games for the Pirates from 1987 until 1990, Palacios found a bigger role with the 1991 team, although he was still sent back to the minors at one point. He went 6-3, 3.75 in 81.2 innings over seven starts and 29 relief appearances. He pitched well for the team in late September that year and was expected to be a key piece for the 1992 team. That year he made eight starts at 12 relief appearances, going 3-2, 4.25 in 53 innings. He was released following the season, returning to Mexico to pitch during the 1993 season.
Palacios returned to the majors in 1994 with the St Louis Cardinals, making 17 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 3-8, 4.44 in 117.2 innings during the strike-shortened season. In 1995 he went 2-3, 5.80 in 40.1 innings over five starts and 15 relief appearances. He pitched back in Mexico through 1999 when he spent part of the season in Triple-A with the New York Mets. Palacios split the 2000 season between Triple-A for the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, while returning to the majors for the final time to make seven relief appearances for the Padres. He spent the 2001-03 seasons in Mexico before retiring. He pitched 76 games for the Pirates, 22 as a starter, going 12-8, 4.03 with six saves in 203.1 innings. Despite pitching for three straight playoff teams with the Pirates, he did not appear in a single postseason game.
Nick Koback, catcher for the Pirates from 1953 until 1955. He was a highly sought after player out of high school in 1953, who decided to sign with the Pirates, after they offered him the highest bonus (reportedly $20,000) and a chance to play right away in the majors. At the time, if a player signed over a certain amount ($4,000), they had to stay on the Major League roster for two full seasons before being sent to the minors, a stipulation known as the “Bonus Baby” rule. He signed with the Pirates on July 9, 1953 (just ten days before his 18th birthday), and he was sent outright to the minor leagues exactly two years later. He was the fourth Bonus Baby player on the Pirates at the time, joining twin infielders John & Eddie O’Brien and Vic Janowicz, who was also a catcher. In between his start and finish with the Pirates, Koback played just 16 Major League games, with 36 total plate appearances. He had four hits (one triple) and he scored one run without collecting an RBI during his three seasons. He started eight games behind the plate and caught another four off of the bench. He played seven games in 1953, debuting in the majors ten days after his 18th birthday, making him one of the youngest players in team history. In 1954 he played just four games all season and he went 0-for-10 at the plate with eight strikeouts. By the time his final day with the Pirates rolled around, they had five Bonus Baby players on the team, not including Janowicz, who already served his two years. Koback finished the 1955 season with Lincoln of the Class-A Western League. That was a farm team of the Pirates, though he was dropped from the Pirates roster so he technically wasn’t property of the team anymore. The Pirates would have had first shot at adding him back if he showed anything during that time. He ended up playing minor league ball until 1960 without a return trip to the majors. Most of his time in the majors with the Pirates was spent as the bullpen catcher. Despite the large bonus at 18 and collecting a big league salary, he worked as a jewelry store clerk during the 1953-54 off-season.
Earl Hamilton, lefty pitcher for the 1918-23 Pirates. He began playing minor league ball at age 17 and was in the majors with the St Louis Browns two years later. His two minor league seasons were spent in the Class-C Western Association, where he had a 13-9 record in 181 innings in 1909 for Springfield, followed by a 19-8 record in 288 innings for Joplin. At age 19, he made 17 starts and 15 relief appearances for the 1911 Browns, going 5-12, 3.97 in 177 innings. The next year he made 26 starts and 15 relief outings, going 11-14, 3.24 in 249.2 innings, with 17 complete games. Hamilton continued to improve in 1913, going 13-12, 2.57 in 217.1 innings, for a team that finished with a 57-96 record. He set career highs for wins (16), starts (35), complete games (20), innings pitched (302.1) and shutouts (five), while posting a career best 2.50 ERA. However, he was with a fifth place team and he led the Browns with 18 losses. The Browns were worse in 1915 and Hamilton’s record suffered, going 9-17, 2.87 in 204 innings. He spent five full seasons in St Louis before being sold to the Detroit Tigers after one start in the 1916 season. The Browns got him back after just five starts and he finished the season with 6-9, 3.12 record in 17 starts and 11 relief appearances. Prior to the Pirates acquiring him in 1918, Hamilton went 0-9, 3.14 in 83 innings for St Louis during the 1917 season. He spent the latter part of the season in the minors. On January 11, 1918, the Pirates worked out a deal with Columbus of the American Association that they would take Hamilton to Spring Training on a trial basis and if he made the team, they would hand over some surplus talent to Columbus.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, Hamilton turned that 1917 record around, going from 0-9 to a 6-0 record in 1918, posting an 0.83 ERA in 54 innings. He made six early season starts and completed all six games, one being a shutout. He made his final start on May 10th, then left that same night to join the Navy during WWI. He was back with the team by the starting of Spring Training in 1919. For the next five years with the Pirates, he was used in both a starting and relief role, getting 101 starts and 62 appearances out of the bullpen. Hamilton was a consistent pitcher, keeping his ERA between 3.24 and 3.99 each season during that span, throwing a minimum of 141 inning each year. The Pirates were over .500 all five years and the last three they placed among the top of the division, but Hamilton had just one winning season.
Hamilton went 8-11, 3.31 in 160.1 innings over 19 starts and nine relief outings in 1919. He was 10-13, 3.24 in 230.1 innings in 1920, making 23 starts and 16 relief appearances. In 1921, he was 13-15, 3.26 in 225 innings, with 30 starts and five relief outings. In 1922 he went 11-7, finally putting together a winning record, despite his highest ERA (3.99) while with the Pirates. He pitched 141 innings during the 1923 season, his last in Pittsburgh. He went 7-9, 3.77 in 15 starts and 13 relief appearances. Hamilton finished his 14-year career with the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies, after they picked him up off waivers from the Pirates during the previous December. The Pirates cut ties with him at the perfect time. He gave up nine runs over six innings in three relief appearances before being shuffled off to the minors, where he played regularly through 1927, then played parts of two seasons (1933, 1936) after that point. For the Pirates, he went 55-55, 3.35, throwing 970.2 innings over 107 starts and 62 relief appearances. In his Major League career, he went 115-147, 3.16 in 2,342.2 innings.
Ed Sweeney, catcher for the 1919 Pirates. He spent eight years catching for the New York Yankees/Highlanders from 1908 until 1915, playing 627 games with a .235 average and 151 RBIs. Twice he led American League catchers in errors and two times he threw out more runners than any other AL catcher. At 18 years old in 1907, he debuted in pro ball with Atlanta of the Southern Association, where he hit .226 in 66 games. That’s all it took before he became a full-time big leaguer for the next eight seasons. Sweeney hit just .146 in 32 games during his rookie season in 1908. In 1909, he batted .267 in 67 games, with 21 RBIs. In 1910, he had a .527 OPS in 78 games, hitting .200 with four doubles, four triples and 17 walks. In 1911, Sweeney batted .231 in 83 games, this time posting a .600 OPS. The 1912-13 seasons were his best in the majors. He hit a career best .268 in 1912, also setting highs with 12 doubles and 37 runs scored in 110 games. He played a career high 117 games in 1913, batting .265 with ten doubles, two triples and his first two big league homers. He set personal highs with 40 RBIs and 37 walks. Sweeney’s numbers dipped in 1914, with a .213 average in 87 games, though he stole 19 bases. His numbers dropped even more in 1915 and he played just 53 games, hitting .190 with five RBIs.
Sweeney spent the 1916-17 in the minors with Toledo of the American Association, where he batted .260 with two homers in 243 games. He was out of baseball in 1918, serving in the military during WWI. The Pirates acquired him on March 21, 1919 from Toledo in exchange for infielder Gus Getz and an undisclosed amount of money. Sweeney was the backup catcher to Walter Schmidt in 1919, seeing very little time until Schmidt got hurt in May and missed three weeks. Sweeney became the everyday catcher for a short time, playing a total of 17 games for the Pirates. His hitting was poor, batting .095 with no RBIs, but his defense kept him in the lineup until just before Schmidt returned. The Pirates began using rookie catcher Cliff Lee, and then had their backup since 1917 (Fred Blackwell) rejoin the team, leaving no spot for Sweeney once Schmidt came back. Sweeney was released on August 8th in what was called a money-saving move, then he went to play in the minors for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League for the rest of the season. He finished his career in 1920, playing for Kansas City of the American Association. He was previously known by the nickname “Jeff”, but he went by Ed Sweeney during his time in Pittsburgh and his records have been updated online to reflect that fact. He hit three homers in the majors and two were off of Hall of Fame pitchers, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank.
Harry Davis, first baseman for the 1896-98 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1894, playing briefly for Providence of the Eastern League, while also spending time with Pawtucket of the New England League. He was with Pawtucket in 1895 before joining the New York Giants in late September for seven big league games. He remained with New York in 1896, mostly playing left field and first base through the first three months of the season. The Pirates acquired him from the Giants on July 25, 1896, along with cash, in exchange for Hall of Fame first baseman Jake Beckley. Davis had 71 games worth of Major League experience at the time, batting .276 with 56 RBIs. He did not hit well during his first half season with the Pirates, batting .190 with no homers and a .548 OPS, but the Pirates stuck with him and the move paid off the following season. In 1897, Davis hit .305 in 111 games, with 63 RBIs and a league leading 28 triples. He played 64 games at first base, 32 at third base and also played 14 games in the outfield. He hit .293 in 58 games for the 1898 Pirates before being sold to the Louisville Colonels in July. He finished out the season batting .217 in 37 games for Louisville, and he played one game for the Washington Senators. In 1899 he barely played in the majors, hitting .188 in 18 games for the Senators. He returned to Providence, where he hit .339 with 52 extra-base hits in 110 games in 1899, followed by a .332 average in 135 games for Providence in 1900. He hit 44 doubles, scored 108 runs and stole 70 bases. In 1901, he reappeared with the Philadelphia A’s as their regular first baseman, a position he would hold for 11 seasons. Davis led the American League in homers for four straight years (1904-07), three times he led the league in doubles, twice in RBIs and he batted over .300 three times.
In 1901 for the A’s, Davis batted .306 with 76 RBIs and 92 runs scored. He hit .307 in 1902, with a league leading 43 doubles, to go along with 92 RBIs and 89 runs scored. In 1903, he batted .298 in 106 games, with 77 runs scored and 55 RBIs. He led the league with ten homers in 1904, while setting a personal high with a .309 batting average. Davis led the AL in 1905 with 47 doubles, 93 runs scored, eight homers and 83 RBIs. He set a career high with 38 steals. Those run/RBI numbers don’t sound impressive, but that year was a down year for offense all around the sport, even on the low end for the deadball era. Davis set career highs with 94 runs scored and 96 RBIs in 1906, with the latter stat leading the league. He also set a career high with 12 homers, which led the league, and he had a .292 average and 42 doubles. In 1907, he batted .266 in 149 games, with league leading totals of 35 doubles and eight homers. He scored 84 runs and had 87 RBIs. Despite those stats, his .713 OPS that year was the beginning of the downside to his offense. He batted .248 with 61 walks and 37 extra-base hits in 1908, resulting in a .689 OPS. Davis batted .268 with 75 RBIs and 73 runs scored in 1909, then saw that OPS drop to .641 in 139 games. He lost his starting job in late June in 1911 and finished the year with a .195 average in 57 games.
Davis managed the Cleveland Indians in 1912, then returned to the A’s in 1913 as a coach. He played in the majors every season from 1912-17, though he got into only 21 games over those six seasons, giving him a total of 22 seasons in the majors. He was a career .277 hitter, with 361 doubles, 145 triples, 285 stolen bases, 951 RBIs and 1,001 runs scored in 1,755 games. He had ten seasons of 20+ steals. He hit .278 in 213 games with the Pirates, with 47 triples, 24 doubles, three homers, 110 RBIs and 125 runs scored.
Bill Hart, pitcher for the Pirates in 1895 and 1898. He had a long career in pro baseball, spanning 26 years and four different decades. While he won over 300 games in his pro career, his Major League record wasn’t one to write home about. Some sources credit him with 251 minor league wins between 1885 and 1910, but his major league record over eight seasons stood at just 66-120 when he was done, with a below .500 winning percentage each year. Hart debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1885 and it was a sign of things to come. Despite a 1.37 ERA in 341.2 innings, he had a 13-26 record. He pitched part of that season with Chattanooga of the Southern League, which was an independent league at the time. Chattanooga was in the Southern Association in 1886, which was considered to be Class-B ball. He went 11-16, 2.09 in 240.2 innings before joining the Philadelphia Athletics in late July. He went 9-13, 3.19 during his first season in the majors, adding another 186 innings to his already high total for the season. He lasted just three starts in 1887 with the Athletics, then spent the rest of the season with Lincoln of the Western League, where his win/loss record took a significant turn. He went 28-6, 4.30 in 293 innings with Lincoln in 1887. He pitched for Buffalo of the International Association in 1888, then joined Des Moines of the Western Association in 1889, where he had a 17-23, 2.72 record in 337 innings. He remained there in 1890 (stats aren’t available), then had a 25-20, 1.47 record in 397.1 innings for Sioux City of the Western Association in 1891. That performance led to his next big league shot.
In 1892, Hart went 9-12, 3.28 in 195 innings for the Brooklyn Grooms of the National League. From there it was back to the minors, where another big season in Sioux City got him back to the majors. In 1894, he went 28-15, 3.71 in 398.1 innings, completing 41 of his 45 starts. In Mid-September of 1894, the Pirates purchased Hart’s contract for the following season, along with the contract of Sioux City teammate Frank Genins. He pitched regularly throughout the year for the 1895 Pirates, making 29 starts and seven relief appearances. Hart went 14-17, 4.75 in 261.2 innings. Following the season, he was traded to the St Louis Browns, along with a cash payment and shortstop Monte Cross for shortstop Bones Ely. Hart pitched often for St Louis with almost no success, going 21-56, 5.65 in 630.2 innings in his two seasons. He led the league with 29 losses in 1896, then had 27 losses and a 6.26 ERA in 294.2 innings in 1897.
He returned to the Pirates in 1898 in exchange for pitcher Jim Hughey and cash. For as bad as Hart was in the majors, Hughey was even worse, going 29-80 over seven seasons. Hart went 5-9, 4.82 in 125 innings over 16 games (15 starts) for the 1898 Pirates, with 12 of those starts coming from the middle of August until the end of the season. He was then traded to Milwaukee of the Western League in exchange for Ginger Beaumont, who went on to become a star center fielder for the Pirates for eight seasons. Hart finished his Major League career with the Cleveland Blues in 1901, during the first season of the American League being recognized as a Major League. That year he went 7-11, 3.77 in 157.2 innings. While his big league career was over by 35 years old in 1901, he played until 1910 in the minors, spending three of those seasons with Little Rock of the Southern Association, before finishing his career back in Chattanooga. We wrote a full article on Hart here, which also include plenty on the aforementioned Jim Hughey as well.
Jim Donnelly, third baseman for the 1897 Pirates. He was a light-hitting third baseman for eight years in the majors (1884-91) before spending four straight years in the minors. When he returned to the big leagues in 1896, he put up big numbers, which led to him being a key acquisition of the Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1884 at 18 years old. He hit just .192 in the minors for Terre Haute, but ended up in the majors by the end of the season and did better at the plate. He batted .254 in 40 games for Indianapolis of the American Association. He spent part of the 1885 season playing for Detroit of the National League, where he hit .232 in 56 games. Donnelly was a starting third baseman for the next three years in the majors, spending the 1886 season with Kansas City of the National League, where he had a .201 average and a .501 OPS in 113 games. He moved on to the Washington Nationals for the next two years, where he played a total of 239 games and had a .491 OPS in 1887 and a .482 mark in 1888. His big league time in 1889 amounted to four games, kicking off a string of three straight years with limited time in the majors. He played 11 games for the St Louis Browns of the American Association in 1890 and 17 games for Columbus of the American Association in 1891. Donnelly was a .213 career hitter in the majors at that time, with two homers in 480 games. The next four years were spent in the Eastern League, where he played for New Haven and Buffalo in 1892, Troy in 1893, Troy and Springfield in 1894, and Springfield in 1895.
He came back to the majors in 1896 and suddenly found his hitting stroke, batting .328 in 106 games for the Baltimore Orioles. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates acquired Donnelly, along with Steve Brodie, a defensive star in center field. Pittsburgh gave up their all-time leader in batting average, Jake Stenzel, along with three minor league players, to get the two Baltimore players. While he played great defensively in Pittsburgh, Donnelly resorted back to his old ways on offense, batting .193 over 44 games. It was said that he didn’t want to play in Pittsburgh and they had troubles with him from the start, signing late and leaving the team at one point for a short time. In late June there were trade rumors with the Philadelphia Phillies, and in mid-July, there was a report that he was being trade to the Brooklyn Grooms for infielder George Shoch, but nothing ever came from either report. The Pirates released him to the New York Giants on July 28th, where he hit .188 in 23 games. His Major League career was nearly over at that point. He played one game in May of 1898 for the St Louis Browns (now in the National League) before finishing his playing days in the minors four years later, though his playing time during the 1899-1902 seasons shows that he received minimal work each year.