Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who went on to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. We also have a doubleheader of note from the 1969 season. We start with a star pitcher for the 1909 World Series champs.
Howie Camnitz, pitcher for the 1904 and 1906-13 Pirates. Camnitz debuted in the majors with the Pirates in 1904 after one full year in minor league ball. He debuted in Class-D ball in 1902 and played briefly for two teams in the Cotton States League. At 21 years old in 1903, he won 26 games for the (get ready for it) Vicksburg Hill Billies of the Cotton States League. He wasn’t ready for the big leagues and lasted just ten games in 1904 before being sent to the minors. He went 1-4, 4.22 in 49 innings that year for the Pirates. The league ERA was 2.73 at the time, so he was well below average in that category. Camnitz went 14-5 in 19 games for Springfield of the Three-I League in 1904, then posted a 17-17, 3.00 record in 300 innings for the 1905 Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. He was with the Mud Hens again in 1906 and had a 22-17, 3.11 record in 342 innings, before rejoining the Pirates for two late September games. He gave up two runs over nine innings in those outings, and he was in the majors for good at that point. Camnitz went 13-8, 2.15 in 180 innings in 1907 for the Pirates and didn’t allow a single home run all season. On August 23rd during the second game of a doubleheader, he pitched a five-inning no-hitter over the New York Giants in a game that was agreed to be shortened prior to the start of the contest. He was even better the next season, going 16-9, 1.56 in 236.2 innings, finishing in the league in ERA. As great as that year was, his best season was still yet to come. The Pirates won the World Series in 1909 and Camnitz was a huge part of getting them there. He went 25-6, 1.62 in 283 innings, finishing fourth in ERA again and second in the league in wins, while leading the league in winning percentage. He threw 20 complete games, had six shutouts and even saved three games (not a stat at the time). He got hit hard in the World Series, but the Pirates were still able to win in seven games.
For the next three seasons, Camnitz saw a much higher ERA, though he was still a solid pitcher at his worst. He went 12-13, 3.22 in 260 innings in 1910, then bounced back with two 20+ win seasons, throwing a total of 544.1 innings during that time. He was 20-15, 3.13 in 267.2 innings in 1911, and 22-12, 2.83 in 276.2 innings in 1912. Camnitz pitched poorly in 1913, going 6-17, 3.74 in 192.1 innings before he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies late in the season for a mediocre return. He finished the year by going 3-3, 3.67 in 49 innings. He spent his final two years pitching back in Pittsburgh in the newly-formed Federal League before retiring. He went 14-19, 3.23 in 262 innings in 1914, then pitched his final 20 innings in the first month of the 1915 season. He was released due to poor conditioning and an altercation at a hotel, which ended his pro baseball career. He had a 116-84, 2.63 record in 1,754.1 innings with the Pirates. Camnitz ranks eighth in team history in ERA, tenth in WHIP (1.17), 12th in wins, 13th in innings pitched and 17th in strikeouts. He’s also 14th in complete games and 12th in shutouts. His actual first name was Samuel, but he went by Howie/Howard. His brother Harry Camnitz was briefly a member of the 1909 Pirates.
Drew Hutchison, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was drafted out of high school in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and it took just three years for him to make the majors. Despite the quick path to the big leagues, he never found success. He debuted in pro ball in 2010, splitting the season between the New York-Penn League and Low-A. Hutchison went 2-3, 2.49 in 15 starts between both stops. The next year was split between three levels, starting in Low-A and finishing in Double-A. He had success at every level, combining to go 14-5, 2.53 in 149.1 innings, with 171 strikeouts. In 2012, he made three starts in Double-A and 11 in the majors. He went 5-3, 4.60 in 58.2 innings with the Blue Jays, but his season ended early due to an elbow injury that turned into Tommy John surgery in August. That limited him in 2013 to 35.1 innings in the minors, though he attended the Arizona Fall League as well, where he had a 3.32 ERA in 21.2 innings over six starts. In 2014, Hutchison made 32 starts for the Blue Jays, going 11-13, 4.48 in 184.2 innings, with 184 strikeouts. He had a 13-5 record in 2015, but it came with a 5.57 ERA in 150.1 innings. Through early 2016, he had split the season between the Blue Jays and Triple-A, posting a 4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings with Toronto, while making 18 starts in the minors.
Hutchison was still just 26 years old when the Pirates acquired him at the trading deadline in July of 2016 season as a salary dump deal that involved Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. The Pirates included two prospects so they could get rid of the high salary of Liriano. Hutchison joined the Pirates in September and made one start and five relief appearances. He had a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings. He spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A, going 9-9, 3.56 in 159.1 innings. He became a free agent at the end of the season and signed a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched briefly in the majors for the Phillies and Texas Rangers in 2018, going 2-2, 6.75 in 42.2 innings between both stops. He pitched in the minors in 2019 with three different organizations, the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. During the shortened 2020 season, he played in independent ball. In 2021, he’s pitching for the Detroit Tigers in Triple-A. Hutchison has a 32-23, 5.10 record in 460.1 innings in the majors.
Doug Bair, pitcher for the Pirates in 1976, then again in 1989-90. He was a second round draft pick of the Pirates in 1971 out of Bowling Green University. He reached Triple-A by 1972, but didn’t make it to the majors until September of 1976. He pitched poorly his first year in Salem of the Carolina league, posting a 5.90 ERA in six starts, but he still made it up to Double-A for an outing, which ended up being seven shutout innings. Bair was back in Salem in 1977, going 15-7, 2.85 in 180 innings, with 186 strikeouts. That year he also made one start in Triple-A. In 1973, he went 7-11, 4.39 in 158 innings for Triple-A Charleston of the International League. In 1974 he had a 7-16, 4.08 record in 170 innings over 26 starts. That was followed in 1975 by a 9-12, 3.02 record in 167 innings. For the third straight season, he made 26 starts. Bair switched to full-time relief in 1976, going 7-10, 3.17 in 45 games and 122 innings pitched, which led to a late season call-up to the majors. He made a total of 79 starts and 45 relief appearances for Charleston before he played his first Major league game on September 13, 1976. In four relief appearances for the Pirates that year, he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings. On March 15, 1977, the Pirates and Oakland A’s hooked up on a nine-player deal, with Bair and five other players going to Oakland, for a package that included Phil Garner.
Bair would pitch for Oakland, and six other Major League teams, before returning to the Pirates in June of 1989 at the age of thirty-nine. He spent part of 1977 back in Triple-A, but still made 45 appearances with the A’s, going 4-6, 3.46 in 83.1 innings, with eight saves. In 1978, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds a month before the season started. Bair went 7-6, 1.97 in a career high 101.1 innings over 70 games. He also set a career high with 28 saves. His ERA more than doubled the next year, as he went 11-7, 4.29 in 94.1 innings over 65 games, with 16 saves. In 1980, Bair was 3-6, 4.24 in 85 innings over 60 appearances, picking up six saves. He split the strike-shortened 1981 season between the Reds and St Louis Cardinals, finishing the year with a 5.10 ERA in 54.2 innings. The Cardinals won the World Series in 1982 and he had a major bounce back season, going 5-3, 2.55 with eight saves in 91.2 innings over 63 outings. He pitched three games in the World Series, allowing two runs in two innings.
Bair was traded again during the 1983 season, which led to another World Series ring. Between the Cardinals and Detroit Tigers, he went 8-4, 3.59 in 85.1 innings over 53 games. The Tigers won it all in 1984 and he went 5-3, 3.75 in 93.2 innings over 47 appearances. He faced just one batter in the postseason, but managed to record two outs. Bair ran into a rough patch in 1985 and finished the year back with the Cardinals. In 51 innings over 23 appearances, he posted a 6.00 ERA. He pitched with the Oakland A’s in 1986, putting up a 3.00 ERA in 45 innings over 31 games. The 1987 season was spent with the Philadelphia Phillies, though he was in Triple-A most of the year. He had a 5.93 ERA in 11 outings with the Phillies that season. Bair spent most of 1988 in Triple-A with the Toronto Blue Jays. He made ten big league appearances, posting a 4.05 ERA in 13.1 innings. He was in Triple-A for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, when the Pirates purchased his contract on June 16th. He pitched 44 games for Pittsburgh over the final 3 1/2 months, going 2-3, 2.27, with one save in 67.1 innings. Bair split the 1990 season between Pittsburgh and Triple-A, getting into 22 games for the Pirates spread throughout the season. He would pitch two more years in the minors before retiring, finishing his Major League career with a 55-43, 3.63 record in 584 games (five starts) and he recorded 81 saves.
Lyle Bigbee, pitcher for the 1921 Pirates. For 11 seasons, Carson Bigbee was an outfielder for the Pirates, playing 1,147 games in a Pittsburgh uniform. In the middle of that stretch, the Pirates gave his older brother a shot at the end of the 1921 season. Lyle Bigbee pitched 12 games for the Philadelphia A’s in 1920, while also seeing some time as an outfielder and pinch-hitter. The problem was that he didn’t have success anywhere that season, batting .187 with an 8.00 ERA and below average defense. He went to Spring Training with the A’s in 1921, but a hand injury kept him from pitching and he was released via waivers on April 16, 1921. Bigbee pitched for Newark of the International League that 1921 season, where he went 9-6, 2.60 in 121 innings. His time in Newark ended when he punched the president of the Newark club, which earned him a suspension. On July 25, 1921, he was sold to the Pirates and told to report the next day. It took him a little bit of time to actually appear in a game after he arrived. He made five relief appearances for Pittsburgh in 1921, debuting on August 24th during a doubleheader. He pitched well in those five games, giving up one run on four hits and four walks in eight innings. When he wasn’t pitching in games, he was being used as a batting practice pitcher. He was signed for 1922, but didn’t attending Spring Training with the club. He was supposed to get in shape on the west coast, however a deal made to help him out fell through and he ended up doing nothing until the Pirates released him outright to Milwaukee of the American Association on April 3, 1922.
Bigbee played three more seasons before retiring, never making it back to the majors. Both Carson and Lyle began their pro careers in the northwest in 1916. At 22 years old for most of the 1916 season, Lyle had a 2.29 ERA in eight relief appearances for Portland of the Pacific Coast League. He moved up to Spokane of the Northwestern League in 1917, where he had a 7-9 record (no ERA available) in 134 innings over 18 games. He was working a shipyard job in 1918 and pitching that season for a semi-pro team despite suffering a hand injury that cost him part of the middle finger on his right (pitching) hand. Late in the year he was drafted into the Army, but the war ended a short time later and he pitched for Seattle of the Pacific Coast League in 1919, going 11-13, 4.58 in 218 innings. Bigbee was also a star football player, though that came back to hurt his baseball career when a broken shoulder in late 1922 led to him pitching just 20 more games in his career.
Harry Swacina, first baseman for the 1907-08 Pirates. He played seven years in the minors before getting his first chance at the big leagues with the 1907 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1901, playing for three different teams in the Class-B Southern Association. One of those teams was Memphis, which is where he spent the 1902 season, hitting .262 in 106 games. In 1903, he moved to Colorado Springs of the Class-A Western League, where he hit .282 with 29 extra-base hits in 113 games. He was back in Class-B in 1904, spending three seasons playing for Decatur of the Three-I League. Stats are limited from the league, but we know that Swacina hit .304 in 121 games in 1904. That was followed by a .258 average in 90 games in 1905, then a .309 average in 117 games in 1906. Swacina hit .292 in 123 games for Peoria of the Three-I League in 1907, which is what got him finally noticed. He was purchased for a reported $3,000 price tag and was called Peoria’s best all around baseball player ever. He joined the Pirates in September and ended up playing the last 26 games at first base. He hit .200 with two extra-base hits and ten RBIs, showing a good glove at first base with just one error. He was with the Pirates for the early part of 1908, getting into 53 games, and while the defense was good at first base, his hitting remained weak. Swacina batted .216 with 13 RBIs and just seven runs scored.
Despite the low average and lack of power, the move to release Swacina was not a popular one among fans and the press, who were getting tired of the revolving door of first baseman the Pirates had in recent years. They claimed that manager Fred Clarke and owner Barney Dreyfuss had a grudge against him because he held out that year for more money. In August he was benched for what was called “dumb playing”, which apparently excited the fans, but didn’t help the team. The rest of the National League apparently agreed with the Pirates, because he cleared waivers and on August 7th he was released outright to Louisville of the American Assocaition. Swacina didn’t play in the majors again until 1914, and even then it was in the Federal League, a new formed Major League that year that lasted two seasons. With the Baltimore Terrapins in 1914, he led the league with 158 games played and 617 at-bats. He batted .280 with 26 doubles, eight triples, 90 RBIs and 70 runs scored. In 1915, he hit .246 in 85 games, with 38 RBIs and 24 runs scored. When the Federal League folded after the 1915 season it helped mark the end of Swacina’s Major League career, though he was released shortly before the season ended. He remained in baseball another eight years as a player, hitting .290 over 2,126 minor league games. His big league stats show a .256 average in 322 games, with 110 runs scored, 151 RBIs and one homer, which he hit in his final season.
Ned Hanlon, Alleghenys/Pirates outfielder/manager in 1889 and 1891. He was a speedy defensive center fielder, who racked up steals and was often among the league leaders in walks during a 13-year career in the majors. Hanlon is more famous for his career as a manager though, his ticket to the Hall of Fame nearly sixty years after he passed away. Back before the modern World Series began in 1903, the champion of baseball was the winner of the National League pennant, and Hanlon led the Baltimore Orioles to three straight titles (1894-96). Then after two straight strong, but disappointing second place finishes, he led the Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1900) to two straight NL titles, a string snapped by the Pirates, who would go on to win three straight times. He won 1,313 games as a manager.
As a player, Hanlon debuted at 19 years old in 1877, playing for Fall River of the New England League. The next year he was with Rochester of the International Association. In 1879, he moved on to Albany of the National Association. There are no stats available for his first two years, but we know that Hanlon hit .315 in 47 games with Albany. That led to him joining the Detroit Wolverines of the National League in 1880. As a rookie, he hit .246 in 73 games, with 32 RBIs and 30 runs scored. He played mostly left field as a rookie, then moved to center field in 1881. In his second season, he hit .279 with 24 extra-base hits and 63 runs scored in 76 games. The next year his average slipped to .231, but he still managed to score 68 runs in 82 games. Baseball expanded the schedules in 1883 and slowly after that point. Hanlon played 100 games that season, hitting .242 with 40 RBIs and 65 runs scored. In 1884, he played 114 games and hit .264 with 29 extra-base hits and 86 runs scored. He had a strong 1885 season, hitting a career best .302, with 93 runs scored.
Hanlon batted just .235 in 1886, but it came with 57 walks, 50 stolen bases and 105 runs scored, while leading the NL with 126 games played. In 1887 he hit .274 with 79 runs scored in 118 games, while setting career highs with 69 RBIs and 69 steals, helping the Wolverines to a National League title. In his final season in Detroit, he batted .266 in 109 games, with 64 runs scored, 39 RBIs and 38 steals. Detroit folded after the season and Hanlon was sold to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in November of 1888. He was initially dissatisfied with the deal until he received $500 of the purchase price. He arrived a bit late to the team during Spring Training, but he played 116 games that year, hitting .239 with 81 runs scored and 53 steals. Hanlon took over as the team manager mid-season in 1889 and went 26-18. He was one of many players who jumped to the Player’s League in 1890, where hit .272 with 81 walks and 65 steals for the Pittsburgh Burghers, while guiding the team to a disappointing 60-68 record.He returned to the helm of the Alleghenys/Pirates in 1891 and was 31-47 before being replaced. As a batter that year, he hit .266 with 60 RBIs, 54 steals and 87 runs in 119 games. During his time with the Alleghenys, he hit .252 with 107 stolen bases, 168 runs scored and 97 RBIs in 235 games. He was injured early in 1892 and Pittsburgh released him on May 5th so he could sign on the manage the Baltimore Orioles. He played his final big league games later that season, hitting .163 in 11 games. In his 13-year career, he hit .259 in 1,270 games, with 931 runs scored, 518 RBIs and 329 steals, though stolen base totals aren’t available for his first six seasons.
Hanlon has a spot in the history of the Pirates team name throughout the years. Most sites say that the Pirates adopted their current name in 1891, but that wasn’t true. The team itself adopted the name during Spring Training of 1895 and the name didn’t become official until much later. When Hanlon was managing the team in 1891, local media began calling the team the Hanlons quite often. The “Pirates” name was mostly used by the media in a few National League cities, so you would mostly see it when the local papers were wired game recaps from those cities. When the team played at home during his managerial stint, the “Hanlons” name was used more often than not. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Pittsburgh Hanlons was the correct team name at the time. Other teams have taken their names from a person with the team, including the Brooklyn Robins (manager Wilbert Robinson), Cleveland Naps (Nap Lajoie), or Boston Doves (last name of owners was Dovey) to name a few.
On this date in 1969, the Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds in a doubleheader at Forbes Field. Rookie Al Oliver had a big day, homering in game one, before hitting a walk-off homer in game two. Here’s the link to the Game Rewind article, which recaps both games from that day, highlighting the heroics from Scoop.