This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: September 7th, Four Players from the Early Days and Gorkys Hernandez

There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game of note from 2011.

Gorkys Hernandez, outfielder for the 2012 and 2015 Pirates. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent in April of 2005 by the Detroit Tigers at 17 years old out of Venezuela. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2006 and hit .327 with five homers and 20 steals in 50 games. He was advanced enough at a young age to play winter ball in Venezuela that season, which is rare for someone with no experience above rookie ball. Hernandez moved up to A-Ball in 2007 and hit .293 with 34 extra-base hits and 54 steals in 124 games. He saw more time in winter ball, but the older competition ate him up, as he finished with a .157 average in 27 games. Shortly after the 2007 season ended, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves, along with Jair Jurrjens in exchange for Edgar Renteria. Hernandez was a top-100 rated prospect prior to both the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The Braves put him in High-A in 2008, where he hit .264 in 100 games, with 34 extra-base hits and 20 steals. In the early part of 2009, he batted .316 through 52 games for Double-A Mississippi of the Southern League.

In June of 2009, Hernandez was dealt to the Pirates, along with Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton, in the Nate McLouth deal. His production fell off after the deal at Altoona, batting .262 with a .652 OPS in 86 games, so he repeated the level during the next season. Hernandez hit .266 with 17 extra-base hits and 17 steals in 92 games in 2010. A finger injury ended his season in July. He moved up to Triple-A in 2011, putting together a solid season when factoring in his above average defense. In 126 games, he batted .283 with 35 extra-base hits and 21 steals. He got the call to the majors early in 2012, making his debut on May 21st. In 25 games for the Pirates that season, Hernandez made two starts, getting a total of 26 plate appearances. He hit .083 with two runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases. On July 31st, he was sent to the Miami Marlins in a deal for Gaby Sanchez. He saw 45 games with the Marlins in 2012, hitting .212 with a .629 OPS, then didn’t return to the majors until he was back with the Pirates in 2015 as a minor league free agent. In between he played minor league ball for the Marlins, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox, while also playing summer ball in Mexico and winter ball in Venezuela. In his return to the Pirates. Hernandez went 0-for-5 in eight games. He left after the season via free agency.

Hernandez saw brief time with the San Francisco Giants in 2016, batting .259 with two homers in 26 games, then he was a regular in their lineup during the 2017-18 seasons. He managed to go the entire 2017 season without a homer in 128 games, then hit 15 home runs during the 2018 season. He hit batted .255 with 20 doubles, 40 runs scored, 22 RBIs and 12 steals in 2017. He followed that up with a .234 average and 52 runs scored in 142 games in 2018. In 2019, Hernandez saw sporadic time with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .143 in 20 games. He signed with the White Sox in 2020, but he was released before the delayed season started. After playing winter ball in both Mexico and Venezuela over the 2020-21 off-season, he has played in Mexico in 2021, seeing action with three different teams. Hernandez is a .230 big league hitter in 394 games over six seasons, with 20 homers, 81 RBIs, 122 runs scored and 29 steals.

Fred Blackwell, catcher for the 1917-19 Pirates. He played four seasons in the minors before getting his first big league shot as a September call-up for the 1917 Pirates. He debuted in 1914 playing for Lexington of the Class-D Ohio State League, where he .206 with three extra-base hits in 67 games that first season. His defense was highly praised that year. It’s interesting to note that he was said to be 18 years old at the time, but he was really four years older. That’s not rare for back then, as a raw 22-year-old with no experience may not have been able to land a job, but an 18-year-old at the same level might be seen as having upside as he matures. Blackwell remained in Lexington in 1915 and hit .203 in 94 games. After the Lexington season ended, he played five games with an American Association team. It was at that time that he was drafted by the Pirates, which was announced on September 21st. The scouting report from the Pirates said that he had an outstanding arm. Blackwell went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1916 and made a solid impression, but he was still cut on April 1st and sent to the minors. He moved up to Class-B in 1916, playing for Wheeling of the Central League, where he had a .228 average in 108 games. The Pirates recalled him at the end of the season, but they sent him on option to Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League on February 17, 1917. Blackwell refused to report, asking to be sent to Newark of the International League instead.

Blackwell didn’t attend Spring Training with the Pirates in 1917, but he was still back with the team that September and got his first chance to play. He didn’t earn that spot with his bat, hitting just .162 with four extra base hits (all doubles) in 76 games for Newark of the International League that season. Blackwell caught three of the last seven games of the season for the Pirates. In 1918, the regular season was shortened due to the ongoing war. Starting catcher Walter Schmidt ended up catching 105 of the team’s 126 games that year. Blackwell played just eight games as the third-string receiver behind Schmidt and veteran Jimmy Archer. He would see his most time in 1919, when he was the backup catcher along with Cliff Lee. Early in the year, Blackwell wasn’t with the team, replaced by veteran Jeff Sweeney, who was gone after hitting .095 in 17 games. An early season injury to Schmidt, caused the Pirates to bring Blackwell back to the team. When Schmidt returned, Sweeney was the player who was released. Blackwell hit .215 in 24 games, getting twenty starts behind the plate. His Major League career was over at that point, and he played just one more season (1921) in the minors. The Pirates sold him to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League on March 7, 1920, but he didn’t play that season. A year and four days later, he was sold to Kansas City of the American Association, where he spent his final season in pro ball. Blackwell hit .205 with ten RBIs in his 35 big league games.

John Flynn, first baseman for the 1910-11 Pirates. After winning the 1909 World Series, the Pirates got rid of their starting first baseman Bill Abstein, who played 137 regular season games and all seven postseason games. Abstein made too many mental errors for the Pirates liking, so after the 1909 season ended, Pittsburgh purchased the contracts of Flynn for $4,000 from St Paul of the American Association. They also added first baseman Bud Sharpe, who was taken in the Rule 5 draft. Both men battled it out for the starting first base job, with Flynn eventually winning it after the season started. Prior to joining the Pirates, Flynn played four seasons of minor league ball, with 1909 being his best year. He was considered to be strong with the bat, and serviceable in the field.

Flynn debuted in pro ball in 1906 at 22 years old, playing for Toronto of the Eastern League. He hit .206 with 16 extra-base hits in 95 games. He improved slightly the next year, batting .215 with 21 extra-base hits in 99 games for Toronto. He moved on to Milwaukee of the American Association in 1908, where he hit .230 with 24 extra-base hits and 24 steals in 92 games. He finally broke out with St Paul in 1909, hitting .265 with 33 extra-base hits and 29 steals in 116 games, which led to him joining Pittsburgh. For the 1910 Pirates, Flynn hit .274 in 96 games, with six homers, 52 RBIs and 32 runs scored. His 22 errors ranked as the third highest total among National League first basemen. In 1911, Pittsburgh picked up minor league veteran Newt Hunter to play first base and Flynn lost his starting spot. He hit .203 in 33 games with no homers, before being sold back to his St Paul minor league team in August. He would play one more season in the majors, making the 1912 Opening Day roster for the Washington Senators, who parted ways with him in mid-May after he batted just .169 in 20 games. Flynn played another nine seasons in the minors after his last Major League game, retiring after the 1921 season with nearly 1,500 minor league games played. His last six seasons were spent back in the Eastern League, seeing time with four different teams. He also managed for five seasons in the minors. In his three-year big league career, he hit .249 with six homer, 60 RBIs and 49 runs scored in 149 games.

Charlie Case, pitcher for the 1904-06 Pirates. He made his Major League debut with the 1901 Cincinnati Reds, making three starts after joining the team in July. He threw three complete games, but allowed 34 hits and 21 runs in his 27 innings. He didn’t make his minor league debut until after those starts, getting sent to Matthews of the Western Association on the same day that he made his third start for the Reds. In 1902, Case joined Rock Island of the Class-B Three-I League. He stayed there for the entire 1902-03 seasons. No stats are available from that time other than the fact that he pitched 33 games in 1902 and 34 more the next season. He began the 1904 season with Springfield of the Three-I League, where the Pirates purchased his contract in July after he pitched 16 games. The scout who saw him was actually Pirates manager Fred Clarke, who took an early July trip to check out players in the league and Case was one of three who really caught his eye. He was also the only one purchased by Clarke, though the papers noted that Harry Hardy was the best looking player he saw. Hardy ended up pitching briefly for the 1905-06 Washington Senators.

Case made 17 starts and a relief appearance for Pittsburgh during his first year, going 10-5, 2.94 in 141 innings, with three shutouts. In 1905, he made 24 starts and seven relief appearances, throwing a total of 217 innings, while again throwing three shutouts. His record that year was only 11-11, yet the team won 96 games and he had the second best ERA among regulars. Teammate Sam Leever went 20-5 with an ERA 13 points higher, while Mike Lynch had a 3.79 ERA, yet managed to finish with a 17-8 record. The Pirates had a deeper pitching staff in 1906 with the additions of Vic Willis and Lefty Leifield, so after two poor starts, Case was sent to the minors, where he finished his career. On June 1, 1906, the Pirates sold him to Rochester of the Eastern League, with the understanding that they could get him back at the end of the season if he pitched well. Case told the local papers that he was fine with the move because he needed regular work, which he got in the form of 264 innings over the final four months of the season. His last appearance with the Pirates came 33 days before they let him go. He still had plenty of strong pitching left in his arm, but never got another chance in the majors. From 1906 until 1914, he went 122-119, winning in double digits (with a high of 19 victories) in all but his last season.

Ed Poole, pitcher/outfielder for the 1900-02 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1898 at 23 years old, playing for Springfield of the Class-B Interstate League, where he put up a 17-10 record. The Springfield club was sold and transferred to Wheeling, where he remained for the 1899-1900 seasons. Poole went 20-15 in 36 starts for Wheeling in 1900, completing 35 of those starts. The Pirates drafted him in September of 1900 and he joined the team on September 25th, after the Wheeling season ended. His Major League debut on October 5, 1900 for the Pirates was not a good first impression. Manager Fred Clarke started the game in left field and got hurt running out a hit. Poole came in for him and by the fourth inning, he was back on the bench. In that inning he made a throwing error and dropped an easy fly ball. He was known more for his pitching at that point, but he had played outfield in Wheeling. He hit .257 in 78 total games for Wheeling that season. His second game for the Pirates was a complete 180 over the first. A week after his debut, he came in to pitch after Deacon Phillippe got hit hard early. Poole allowed just one run over seven innings, while also hitting a home run and a triple, driving in three runs, for a 10-6 victory.

Poole was put on the reserve list for 1901 and he remained with the Pirates all season. He started ten games and pitched twice in relief, going 5-4, 3.60 in 80 innings. He played a total of 26 games, seeing action at all three outfield positions, as well as one game each at second base and third base. Poole hit .205 in 78 at-bats, with a home run and four RBIs. He played just one game for the 1902 Pirates before he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. On May 14, 1902, he pitched eight innings in relief during a 10-5 loss, giving up four runs, though just one was earned. Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro made the start, allowing six runs in the first before he was pulled. Poole would go on to make 16 starts for the Reds that year, going 12-4, 2.15 with 16 complete games. He had a 7-13, 3.28 record in 184 innings for the Reds in 1903. That was followed by an 8-14, 3.39 record over 178 innings for the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers) in 1904. He returned to the minors in 1905, playing another four years before he retired from pro ball. Poole had a 33-35, 3.04 record in 595 innings over five seasons in the majors. He was a career .183 hitter, with two homers and 15 RBIs in 95 games.

The Game

On this date in 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Houston Astros by a 5-4 score. This game included a crazy base running play by the Pirates late that cost them an opportunity to score more runs. It also had two homers by Andrew McCutchen. Here’s the full game recap, along with a link inside to the boxscore.

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