Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the man that helped name the Pirates.
Louis Bierbauer, second baseman for the Pirates from 1891 until 1896. The abbreviated version of old story goes that after the Player’s League folded in 1890, Pittsburgh “pirated” players from other teams that didn’t put those players on the reserve list. The Player’s League was around one season and most players returned to their 1889 teams because they were reserved. Pittsburgh signed Bierbauer (and others), and then a few of the other opposing teams referred to them as the Pirates. An odd twist on the story is that they never went by that team name in 1891 or even within the next few years. The local papers still often referred to them as the Alleghenys, which was the accepted name before then. Others called them “Allies”, the “Hanlons” for manager Ned Hanlon, or just the “Pittsburgs”. Back then the town didn’t have an H at the end. The “Pirates” name, when seen, was almost always from a game recap sent from the road by a writer from a different city, and many of those references didn’t have the Pirates name capitalized.
When manager Bill McGunnigle took over the team in late July of 1891, he ran practice with a whistle and the local newspapers took to calling the team the “Pets”, which stuck through the end of the season. During the 1893 season, the team started going by the name “Braves”, which stuck into early 1895. The nickname Pirates wasn’t used by the team until the 1895 season. Even then it wasn’t fully embraced, as manager Bill Watkins changed the team name (and team colors) for the 1898 season to the Patriots because he didn’t like the Pirates name. The actual name of the team didn’t include the word Pirates for the longest time. The official name starting in 1891 was the Pittsburgh Athletic Company, and technically, the 1891 team was actually a brand new club, different from the 1882-90 version (I’ll cover that more one day). Having said all that, it’s easier to just say they started using the name Pirates in 1891 because that’s the earliest reference to it. The owner J. Palmer O’Neil referred to himself a few times as the “Pirate King” after a character in the play at the time, helping the name stay alive long enough that the club eventually embraced it.
Back to Bierbauer the player, who was a star second baseman at the time that he was signed by Pittsburgh. He debuted in pro ball in 1885, playing for three different minor league teams at 19 years old. By 1886, he was the everyday second baseman of the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. As a rookie that season, he hit .226 with 47 RBIs, 56 runs scored and 19 stolen bases in 137 games. In 1887, he improved to .272, with 27 extra-base hits, 82 RBIs, 74 runs scored and a career high 40 steals in 126 games. The next year saw him bat .267 with 20 doubles, nine triples, 80 RBIs and 83 runs scored in 134 games. In his final season with the Athletics, Bierbauer hit .304 with 27 doubles, seven triples, seven homers, 80 runs scored and 105 RBIs. When the Player’s League formed, he jumped to the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders, named after player/manager John Ward, which shows you that the previously mentioned “Hanlons” name for the Pirates in 1891 wasn’t that odd for the time. Bierbauer excelled in the new league, hitting a career best .306 in 133 games, with 99 RBIs, while setting career highs with 31 doubles, 128 runs scored and 40 walks. He also led all second baseman in double plays and assists.
Bierbauer had an awful first year back in the National League in 1891 (-0.4 WAR), then rebounded to have a decent career with the Pirates, that fell short of expectations when they signed him. He hit just .206 that first season, a drop of 100 points from the previous year. His .514 OPS was easily the lowest full-season OPS during his career, but his defense was above average that season. In 1892, he hit .236 with 37 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs and 81 runs scored. He finished second in the league in fielding percentage for second basemen. In 1893, Bierbauer batted .284 with 34 extra-base hits, 94 RBIs and 84 runs scored in 128 games. Offense was up around baseball that year due to the new rules for pitchers and increased distance from the pitching rubber to home plate, but the major increase happened in 1894, which was one of the best years for offense in baseball history. Bierbauer hit .303 that year with 36 extra-base hits, 87 runs scored and a career best 109 RBIs in 131 games. On its own, that looks like a big season at the plate, but his .744 OPS was sixth on the Pirates, who were not one of the top three hitting teams in the league.
Offense dropped around baseball in 1895 and Bierbauer declined with it, batting .260 with 71 RBIs and 54 runs scored in 118 games. In 1896, he was doing well early until a leg injury on July 3rd ended his season. On a slide into second base on a stolen base attempt, “his foot became mixed up with the bag” and he suffered what was first thought to be a sprain, but ended up being worse. He had to have two teammates carry him off of the field and he never played for the Pirates again. On February 27, 1897, he was sold to the St Louis Browns for $1,500. Bierbauer didn’t want to play for St Louis and his stay there lasted just 16 games total over the 1897-98 seasons. On May 9, 1897, after 12 games, he left the team in the middle of the night and played the rest of the season for an outlaw team. He returned in 1898 for four games before St Louis released him, ending his big league career. He went to the minors for the rest of 1898 and played pro ball until 1902 before retiring.
Bierbauer was an above average defender for most of his career, who led the league three times in assists while with the Pirates, and five times total in his career. He had one main issue on defense, and that was completing close plays, especially with runners attempting to steal. He shied away from contact after a severe spiking injury. His range and sure hands still made him an above average second baseman. He was a career .267 hitter in 1,385 games, with 839 RBIs, 821 runs scored and 206 stolen bases.He hit .260 in 709 games, with 399 runs scored and 425 RBIs with the Pirates.
Grant Jackson, pitcher for the 1977-82 Pirates, and the winner of the last World Series game in franchise history. Jackson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961 as an amateur free agent. It took him four years to make the majors, debuting in September of 1965. He debuted in pro ball in 1962 at 19 years old, going 4-5, 5.79 in 96 innings for Class-C Bakersfield of the California League. He had some big control issues his first year, with a 71:86 BB/SO ratio. He repeated Bakersfield in 1963, improving to 12-8, 3.89 in 176 innings, with 87 walks and 159 strikeouts. That was a nice decline in his walk rate over one year, though the control issues returned in 1964, just not as bad, and it came with a big strikeout rate. He spent most of that season in the Class-A Northwest League, with a brief promotion to Double-A. Jackson went 8-12, 4.26 in 148 innings, with 93 walks and 179 strikeouts. Before making his big league debut, he was 9-11, 3.95 in 155 innings for Triple-A Arkansas of the Pacific Coast League. He had a 60/158 BB/SO ratio that season. With the Phillies, he was 1-1, 7.24 in 13.2 innings. He pitched just twice in relief for the 1966 Phillies, spending the rest of the year with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 10-8, 3.96, with 132 strikeouts in 134 innings.
Jackson’s first full season in the majors was 1967, when he posted a 3.84 ERA in 84.1 innings over four starts and 39 relief appearances. He was even better the next season despite a 1-6 record, finishing the year with a 2.95 ERA in six starts and 27 relief appearances, throwing a total of 61 innings. Jackson spent his only full season as a starter in 1969, when he went 14-18, 3.34 in 253 innings and made his lone All-Star appearance. He had 180 strikeouts, 13 complete games and he threw four shutouts. He had just one other shutout in his big league career. His ERA rose to 5.29 in 149.2 innings in 1970 and he split his time between starting and relief. He had a 5-15 record that year. After the season, he was one of three players traded to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Roger Freed, who ended up putting up -0.1 WAR for his new team. Jackson spent the next 5 1/2 seasons in Baltimore as a strong reliever, who occasionally closed out games, so the Orioles got the much better end of the deal.
Jackson went 4-3, 3.13 in 77.2 innings over nine starts and 20 relief appearances in his first season with Baltimore. In the 1971 World Series, he had one scoreless appearance against the Pirates. In 1972, he had a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings over 32 relief outings, with eight saves. Jackson was strong in 1973, going 8-0, 1.90 with nine saves in 80.1 innings over 45 games. He pitched 66.2 innings in 49 appearances in 1974, going 6-4, 2.57 with 12 saves. In his final full season with the Orioles, he went 4-3, 3.35 with seven saves in 48.1 innings over 41 games. During the 1976 season, MLB had a June 15th trade deadline and the Orioles and New York Yankees combined for ten-player trade. Jackson had a 5.12 ERA prior to the deal, then went 6-0, 1.69 in 58.2 innings after the trade. The Yankees went to the World Series, though he had a rough postseason with five runs allowed in seven innings. The Seattle Mariners selected him in the Expansion Draft after the season and then traded him to the Pirates a month later.
Jackson had a 5-3, 3.86 record and four saves in 49 appearances and 91 innings in his first season in Pittsburgh. He improved to a 7-5, 3.26 record and five saves over 60 appearances and 77.1 innings in 1978, then dropped down to a 2.96 ERA in 82 innings over 72 outings in 1979. Jackson picked up 14 saves and won eight games that season, helping the Pirates to the postseason. After five shutout performances in the playoffs, Jackson came in on relief in game seven of the 1979 World Series and threw 2.2 scoreless innings to pick up the win. He also won game one of the NLCS over the Cincinnati Reds. The 1980 season was another solid performance, with a 2.92 ERA in 71 innings over 61 games, with eight wins and nine saves. During the middle of the strike-shortened 1981 season, he was sold to the Montreal Expos. He had a 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings before the deal, then posted a 7.59 ERA in ten outings with the Expos, who traded him to the Kansas City Royals in January of 1982. Jackson pitched for the Royals during the first half of the 1982 season before being released with a 5.17 ERA in 38.1 innings over 20 games. He re-signed with the Pirates and pitched his final big league game on September 8th, his only appearance with Pittsburgh that season. Jackson pitched 278 games for the Pirates and had a 29-19, 3.23 record with 36 saves in 278 games and 354.1 innings. He spent 18 years in the majors and had an 86-75, 3.46 record in 692 appearances and 1,358.2 innings pitched.
Leon Chagnon, pitcher for the 1929-30 and 32-34 Pirates. He didn’t debut in pro ball until he was 25 years old in 1928, spending the season with Lynn of the Class-B New England League, where he had an 8-12, 2.95 record in 177 innings. The Pirates purchased his contract on August 30, 1928 and at the time it was announced that he was 21 years old. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1929 and was one of the final cuts on April 7th. He was with Columbia of the South Atlantic League (Class-B) in 1929, where he had a 20-13, 3.38 record in 274 innings. He debuted in the majors in 1929 just after his 27th birthday,and made one late season start. He rejoined the Pirates on September 4th, but didn’t make that start until October 5th. Chagnon was with the Pirates for most of 1930, struggling with the high offense in the league like almost every other pitcher. He had a 6.82 ERA in 62 innings. On August 11th, the Pirates acquired pitcher Spades Wood from Wichita of the Western League in exchange for Chagnon. On December 4th, Wichita sold him to Fort Worth of the Texas League.
Chagnon spent all of 1931 with Fort Worth, where he won 20 games and had a 2.53 ERA in 267 innings. The Pirates repurchased him on September 12, 1931 from Fort Worth. On February 3, 1932, he was released on option to Mission of the Pacific Coast League, although that didn’t last long. The Pirates recalled him on April 27th after he made six appearances for Mission. The odd thing about his age is that he was now listed at 26 years old, so his age somehow gained one year, but it was still off by three years. Back in Pittsburgh for most of 1932, he went 9-6, 3.94 in 128 innings, making ten starts and 20 relief appearances. Chagnon spent his first full season in the majors in 1933, posting a 3.69 ERA in 100 innings split over five starts and 34 relief appearances. He was limited to 58 relief innings in 1934, and his ERA rose to 4.81 that year. After the season, the Pirates traded him to the New York Giants for 21-year-old pitcher Jack Salverson. Chagnon lasted 38.1 innings and had a 3.52 ERA with New York in 1935 before being sent to the minors, where he played until retirement after the 1937 season. He pitched 101 times in relief and 20 times as a starter with Pittsburgh, posting a 19-14 record and a 4.61 ERA in 355 innings.
Everett Booe, outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. He played two years for Petersburg of the Class-C Virginia League before the Pirates purchased his contract on August 20, 1911 under the recommendation of scout Howard Earle. Booe debuted in pro ball 1910 with Petersburg at 18 years old and hit .228 with 15 doubles and three triples in 100 games. He hit .303 with 23 doubles, eight triples and two homers in 122 games in 1911. He went to Spring Training with the Pirates in 1912, but he was sold to Indianapolis, who then sent him to Wheeling of the Class-B Central League for more seasoning. He hit .325 in 127 games with Wheeling, picking up 27 doubles, seven triples and three homers (his online stats say that he played for Petersburg that season, but he didn’t). He was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Pirates in September of 1912, selected from Fort Wayne of the Central League. Booe was extremely fast, with newspapers at the time claiming that he got down to first base on a bunt in three seconds flat. He helped that he was a lefty and probably got a running start, but the speed was legit. He was also a very smart player, graduating college early, while planning to attend medical school in Baltimore over the 1912-13 off-season.
During his brief time with the Pirates, Booe hit .200 in 29 games. Most of his playing time came in May as a center fielder. He was sent to Springfield of the Three-I League as partial payment for outfielder Fred Kommers on June 24, 1913. For the Pirates to get Kommers right away, they needed to send an outfielder to replace him in Springfield, so Booe was sent there on option. He ended up finishing the year with St Paul of the American Association and was supposed to play there in 1914 as well, until he signed a deal to play in the upstart Federal League. Booe played for two teams in the Federal League in 1914 and then couldn’t get a big league job after the league folded, which happened to quite a few marginal MLB players during that time. He hit .224 in 96 games during that 1914 season, with ten doubles, two triples, 12 steals and 34 runs scored. He played pro ball until 1930 and collected over 2,000 hits in the minors (his 1915 stats are missing, but he played for Statesville, NC as a player/manager that season). He also had six years of managerial experience in the minors. Booe missed the 1918-19 seasons serving in the Army during WWI. He spent seven seasons playing for San Antonio of the Class-A Texas League and he batted over .300 in each of his last four seasons with the team.
Pete Compton, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. He played six seasons in the majors between 1911 and 1918, seeing time with five different big league clubs. Compton went 1-for-16 in five games in Pittsburgh during the middle of the 1916 season. The Pirates picked him up as a waiver claim from the Boston Braves on July 3rd and returned him 11 days later. There was some dispute over his claim by the Pirates. Boston had put him on waivers with the idea to trade him to a minor league team in Louisville. In fact, they already had a deal worked out. Owner Barney Dreyfuss refused to waive his claim and Compton joined the Pirates, where it was said that his play was unsatisfactory. Manager Jimmy Callahan asked that he be placed back on waivers and Boston immediately picked him back up for the $1,500 waiver cost. Boston then sent him to Louisville, as per the original deal. Compton played a total of 19 seasons in the minors and collected over 2,600 hits as a pro, with 186 coming in the majors.
Compton debuted in pro ball in 1909 at 19 years old, hitting .217 with one extra-base hit in 26 games for Lancaster of the Class-D Ohio-State League. That doesn’t sound like the start of a future big league player, but he quickly turned things around. In 1910, he hit .253 with 20 extra-base hits for Beeville of the Class-D Southwest Texas League. The next year he moved up one level to Battle Creek of the Southern Michigan League and hit .352 with 28 doubles and 25 triples in 125 games. That led to a trial with the St Louis Browns, where he hit .271 in 28 games. In 1912, he batted .280 in 103 games with the Browns, with 12 extra-base hits, 11 steals and 26 runs scored. Compton batted .180 in 63 games for the Browns in 1913, then finished the season in the minors with Kansas City of the American Association, where he also spent all of the 1914 season. He batted .343 in the first half of the 1915 season in Kansas City, then joined St Louis of the Federal League for two games, before returning to Kansas City. The Boston Braves then purchased his contract 16 days later and he hit .241 in 35 games to finish the season. Before his time with the Pirates, he was hitting .204 in 34 games with Boston. After spending 1917 in the minors, he returned to the majors later in the 1918 season to hit .217 in 21 games with the New York Giants. He played another ten years of pro ball before retiring. He often went by the nickname “Bash”, which was a shortened version of his middle name Sebastian.
Harley Young, pitcher for the 1908 Pirates. He had quite a pro record before making his big league debut. He was 21 years old in 1905 when he went 18-3 in 201 innings for Pittsburg of the Class-C Missouri Valley League. He was still in Class-C ball in 1906 when he had a 24-17 record for Springfield of the Western Association. He got a spring tryout with the St Louis Browns, but remained in the minors. He stayed in the Western Association in 1907, posting a 29-4 record for Wichita. On August 5th, the Pirates purchased Young from Wichita, but he was allowed to finish the season with his minor league team before joining the Pirates during Spring Training in 1908. During his short time in Pittsburgh, he made three starts and five relief appearances, posting a 2.23 ERA in 48.1 innings. The Pirates traded Young and outfielder Tommy McCarthy mid-June of 1908 to the Boston Doves for Irv Young. The interesting part of the trade is that the Pirates tried to acquire Irv Young right before signing Harley, offering Boston two players and $10,000. Boston wasn’t satisfied with the players included so they passed. Harley Young had a 3.29 ERA in 27.1 innings after the trade, so he really didn’t get a great shot with either team that season. The 1908 season ended up being his only season in the majors. He was sold to Oklahoma City of the Texas League during Spring Training in 1909. Young pitched in pro ball from 1905 until 1920, picking up at least 153 career wins (some stats are incomplete).
Young has a little more notoriety than your average one-year player from 100+ years ago. The popular thing to do back in that era was give players with the same last name, the same nickname. The great Cy Young was nearing the end of his brilliant career back then and the aforementioned Irv Young got the unfortunate nickname of “Cy the Second”. In fact, he was often just called Cy Young and the original Cy Young would get the nickname “Old” Cy Young. Imagine stealing the nickname of one of the greatest pitchers ever. That’s not too much pressure for a young (pardon the pun) pitcher, is it? So when Harley came around in 1908, he got the nickname “Cy the Third”. In fact, he already had the nickname in the minors, and just like with Irv, sometimes Harley was just called Cy Young. Harley fell exactly 511 wins short of Cy Young’s career total, while Irv won 63 big league games.
Bill Nelson, pitcher for the 1884 Alleghenys. He started and finished three games for the 1884 Alleghenys, winning one. That brief trial turned out to be his only MLB experience. Nelson debuted on September 3rd and pitched his final game seven days later, a 10-2 loss to Columbus. He was actually slated to pitch his first game on September 1st, but he got hit on the hand with a pitch in the top of the first and had to leave the game before throwing a pitch. That game isn’t credited to him for some reason. His lone win came over a Hall of Famer Hank O’Day (he’s in the Hall as an umpire) in a 10-3 win on September 6th. In what would seem extremely odd by today’s standards, he batted sixth in the lineup in his first big league start. He was in the ninth spot for the final two games (he went 2-for-12 at the plate). After the Alleghenys game on September 13th, Nelson and outfielder Conny Doyle were both released. The Alleghenys signed outfielder Billy Reid to replace Doyle, but they didn’t bring on another pitcher. Nelson pitched for Muskegon of the Northwestern League to begin the 1884 season. He was 20 years old and in his first season of pro ball. He had a 9-18 record for Muskegon, though it came with a 1.72 ERA in 245.1 innings. Nelson played in the minors until 1889. His stats for the minors are far from complete, but they show that he struggled in trials with two teams in 1885, allowing 37 runs in 29 innings. He played for Lincoln of the Western League in 1886-87, with awful stats in three pitching appearances in 1887 resulting in 46 runs over 22 innings, though his records show that just ten of the runs were earned. He also played some games at first base and center field in 1887, hitting .196 in 11 games. There are no stats available for his final two seasons in which he appeared with Dubuque of the Central Interstate League in 1888 and his hometown team of Terre Haute in the Illinois-Indiana League in 1889.