This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 15th, Jeff Banister and an Original Allegheny

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a man who was in the lineup for the first game in franchise history.

Jeff Banister, pinch-hitter for the 1991 Pirates. He was a 25th round draft pick out of the University of Houston in 1986 by the Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 22 years old with Watertown of the New York-Penn League in 1986. He hit just .145 in 41 games, with 12 walks and all four of his extra-base hits were doubles. While he mostly caught in the minors, he saw games at first base every year and he played outfield for the only time (three games) during his first pro season. In 1987, he moved up to Macon of the Class-A South Atlantic League, where he hit .254 with 20 doubles and six homers in 101 games. Banister played for Harrisburg of the Double-A Eastern League in 1988. He hit .259 in 71 games, with six doubles, six homers and 26 RBIs. Despite hitting six homers and playing 71 games with a decent average, he finished the year with nine runs scored. He repeated Harrisburg in 1989 and hit just .238 in 102 games, but he had 13 doubles, 12 homers, 48 runs and 48 RBIs, with an 18-point jump in his OPS over the previous season (.690 vs .672). In 1990, Banister played 101 games with Harrisburg and hit .269 with 13 doubles, ten homers and 57 RBIs. He also got into 12 games for Triple-A Buffalo of the American Association and put up an .899 OPS during that brief time.

During his sixth season in the system, Banister got his one moment in the sun for the Pirates on July 23, 1991. The Pirates called him up on July 23rd to replace the injured catcher Don Slaught, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. At the time, Banister was hitting .266 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 47 games for Triple-A Buffalo. In the seventh inning of a 10-3 game on July 23rd against the Atlanta Braves with the Pirates ahead and at home, Banister came to the plate for his Major League debut, batting for Doug Drabek. With one out and no one on, he hit a 1-1 pitch from veteran Dan Petry between shortstop and third base for his first big league hit, a single. Two batters later he was left stranded at first base, returning to the dugout. He never played another Major League game. He was optioned back to Buffalo on July 27th when the Pirates recalled catcher Tom Prince. Banister was injured in 1992 and missed the entire season, then played briefly (eight games) in Double-A in 1993, before taking a managerial position in the minors for the Pirates in 1994. He managed four different Pirates affiliates during the 1994-98 seasons. He spent 30+ years with the Pirates system, last serving as a Special Assistant on the Baseball Operations side until being let go during the 2020 shutdown. He was out of baseball until being named as the bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 2021. During the 2015-18 seasons, he was the manager for the Texas Rangers. He won two division titles (2015-16) and the American League Manager of the Year award in 2016. As a player, Banister was lucky to even make it to college ball. He nearly lost his leg in high school due to bone cancer. In college, he was paralyzed for ten days after a home plate collision. He also had multiple knee operations in the minors.

Edward Kinsella, pitcher for the 1905 Pirates. At 25 years old, he went 17-14 in his second minor league season while playing for a team called the Bloomington Bloomers of the Class-B Three-I League, before the Pirates purchased his contract on August 4, 1905 for $1,000. It was also said that the Boston Red Sox were interested in his services at the time. He was allowed to finish the minor league season with Bloomington before reporting to the Pirates. Kinsella debuted with Bloomington in 1904, though the only available stats are 23 games pitched and 54 walks. The 1905 season shows that he walked 146 batters before joining the Pirates, which is a high number regardless of the unknown number of innings pitched. He joined the Pirates on September 14th and made his big league debut in relief on September 16th, facing seven batters over two scoreless innings. He then made two starts, pitching a 2-2 tie on September 30th and a 4-1 loss on October 8th. Both games were the second game of a doubleheader, and his second start was the last game of the season. Kinsella pitched a complete game on September 18th in an exhibition game against a team from Newark, Ohio. The Pirates won the game, but he allowed five runs on 12 hits. He threw another complete game in an exhibition against Columbus of the American Association and won 11-3. While he was facing a minor league team, the AA was one of the best leagues in the minors and that Columbus team went 100-52 that season, so they were a worthy opponent. After seeing him in his debut, a writer for the Pittsburgh Press said that Kinsella was “a good sized chap, with much speed, good curves, and a plentiful supply of confidence”.

After the 1905 season ended the Pirates sold his contract to Toledo of the American Association, along with infielder Otto Knabe, in a deal that was announced on December 15th. Kinsella was working an off-season job that November when he got fired for taking the day off after pay day. His salary for the week in the off-season was reported as $9.60. While he was sold to Toledo, he ended up back in the Three-I League, pitching for the Springfield club. He pitched four full seasons in the minors before getting his second and final shot at the majors with the 1910 St Louis Browns. During that 1906-09 stretch, he had three consecutive 21+ win seasons with Portland of the Pacific Coast League (1907-08) and Portland of the Northwestern League (1909). He pitched 370 innings during the 1907 season. Kinsella made five starts and five relief appearances during his one season with the Browns, posting a 3.78 ERA in 50 innings. He finished his career in the minors in 1914, playing for three different teams in his final year, including two clubs in Class-D ball, which was five steps away from the majors at the time. He went 22-11 and threw 280 innings for Denver of the Western League in 1912. While his minor league stats are incomplete (two full years are missing win/loss records), he had at least four 20+ win seasons and at least 135 wins. Kinsella had the nickname “Rube” since his days in the minors, and he was described as a rural farm boy, who developed as a pitcher while playing for his local amateur team. Despite the mocking nickname, he actually attended Illinois State and played ball during the 1902-03 seasons. He had a brother Bert who was said to be a better pitcher, but he injured his shoulder during the 1905 season and never made anything of his career.

Jock Menefee, pitcher for the 1892 and 1894-95 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1890 at 22 years old with Erie of the New York-Penn League. There are no stats from that season, but during the 1891 season, he went 8-7 in 19 games pitched and he hit .204 with 30 runs scored, eight doubles and 12 steals in 64 games, mostly playing right field. Jock (his first name was John) served parts of those two seasons as the team’s manager. He made his Major League debut with the Pirates during the 1892 season as a right fielder for the final inning on August 17th, one day after he joined the team. After Doggie Miller (who was playing with a bad leg that caused him to limp) needed to leave the game, Menefee took his spot and caught a fly ball to help the Pirates secure a 3-1 win. He debuted in pitcher’s box on August 22nd and pitched poorly, during what turned out to be his only pitching appearance that season. The Pirates were losing 7-1 to Brooklyn with one out in the fourth inning, when Menefee was called on to relieve starter Red Ehret. Menefee gave up an inherited run in the fourth, and then nine runs of his own over the rest of the game on ten hits and two walks. His current records say he gave up six runs over four innings, but every play-by-play from the day, including one with a detailed batter-by-batter recap of the fourth inning, has him allowing nine runs in 5.2 innings. Before joining the Pirates, he was playing for Wilkes-Barre of the Class-B Pennsylvania State League. His Wilkes-Barre team folded the day after his lone big league pitching appearance, though he remained with the Pirates. Menefee was scheduled to pitch an exhibition game for the Pirates in Jamestown on September 6th, but a doubleheader with the Washington Senators got rained out on the 5th, so the exhibition game was canceled and the doubleheader moved to the 6th.

Menefee pitched part of the 1893 season in the majors with Louisville, going 16-5, 1.57 in 183 innings with Johnstown of the Pennsylvania State League before debuting in Louisville in late July. He went 8-7, 4.24 in 129.1 innings over 15 starts. He had an 8-17, 4.29 record in 211.2 innings in 1894 before the Pirates reacquired him in exchange for pitcher George Nicol and cash in August. Menefee went 5-8, 5.40 in 13 starts with the Pirates to finish that 1894 season. In 1895 he pitched poorly in two games before being released, then played for Franklin of the Class-C Iron and Oil League. He played for Kansas City of the Western League in 1896 (no records available) and then hit .221 in 131 games in 1897, with 22 extra-base hits, 71 runs scored and 37 steals. His pitching stats from that year just show 17 innings pitched. He started just one game for the New York Giants in 1898 that didn’t go well, then played for Wichita of the Kansas State League. In 1899, he played for Minneapolis of the Class-A Western League.

Beginning in 1900, Menefee spent four full seasons in the Chicago Orphans/Cubs starting rotation. He went 9-4, 3.85 in 117 innings over 13 starts and three relief appearances in 1900. In 1901, he had an 8-12, 3.80 record in 182.1 innings, with 19 complete games in 20 starts. His best season was when he went 12-10, 2.42 in 197.1 innings in 1902. He had an 11-3 complete game loss to the Pirates that year in which he allowed just one earned run. Just 12 days later, he threw a shutout against the Pirates, in a season that many consider to be their best year ever. In 1903, Menefee went 8-10, 3.00 in 147 innings over 20 games, with 17 starts and 13 complete games. That was the end of his big league career and he played three seasons of pro ball after that point, finishing up at 40 years old with McKeesport of the Class-C Ohio-Pennsylvania League. He was a decent enough hitter/fielder that he played 82 games in the field during his Major League career at six different positions other than pitcher. Over nine seasons in the majors, he went 58-70, 3.81 in 1,111.1 innings over 139 games, with 125 starts, 111 complete games and six shutouts. He was a .222 hitter with 57 RBIs in 221 games.

Mike Mansell, left fielder for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He started his minor league career at 19 years old with Syracuse of the League Alliance in 1877 (the first season of minor league ball) and stayed with the team as they first moved to the International Association in 1878, then the National League in 1879. Stats aren’t available from his first two seasons, but his team was a bit over-matched in the move to the big league level. Syracuse did very poorly that season, finishing 22-48-1, and Mansell struggled along with his team. He hit .215 with a .491 OPS in 65 games as their everyday left fielder. He showed great range (best in the league according to Range Factor), but he also committed 29 errors. Well not an awful total back before gloves, when official scorers were ruthless, it was still the fourth most in the league for all outfielders. He played with the Cincinnati Reds in 1880, a franchise in the NL that pre-dated the current Reds franchise, which started in the American Association in 1882. Mansell did even worse at the plate during his second big league season, finishing with a .193 average and .487 OPS. His fielding that year wasn’t great either, with 25 errors in 53 games in left field. That second Reds team was joined by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1882 during the first year of the American Association. Mansell, who spent the 1881 season in the minors (see fun fact below),  was the starting left fielder for Pittsburgh in their first year, playing all 79 games. On Opening Day, he batted cleanup. He hit .277, while leading the league in both doubles (16) and triples (16), while adding 59 runs scored. It was quite a turnaround at the plate for the for 24-year-old.

In 1883, Mansell batted .257 with 12 doubles, 13 triples, three homers, 25 walks, and he scored 90 runs in just 96 games. The Alleghenys suffered through a tough season that year, finishing with a 31-67 record. In 1884, Mansell struggled with the Alleghenys, then was dropped on June 13th (along with backup infielder John Peters) after posting a .140 average and a .434 OPS through 27 games. The team had a 30-78 record on the season, going 20-57 after releasing the two players. Mansell’s home run on June 5th was the first of the season for the team. They ended up getting just one more all year, when Charlie Eden hit one one August 27th. Mansell played for two other American Association teams in 1884 before before returning to the minors to finish his career in 1892. After leaving the Alleghenys in 1884, he hit .200 in 20 games with the Philadelphia Athletics, and then finished up with the Richmond Virginians, who joined the league late in the year to help finish out the schedule after the Washington Nationals folded in early August. In 29 games with Richmond, Mansell put up a .301 average. He was a .239 hitter in 371 big league games, with 237 runs scored and 42 triples, compared to 41 doubles. Over those final eight seasons of pro ball (1885-92), he played for eight different teams in six different leagues. His brother Tom played five seasons in the majors between 1879 and 1884,  and his brother John played one year (1882) with the Philadelphia Athletics. All three played outfield together in the minors with Albany of the Eastern Championship Association in 1881. Tom also played one game for Syracuse in 1879 with Mike.