This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: March 12th, Pirates Pitching Great, Vern Law

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, led by one of their greatest all-time pitchers.

Vern Law, pitcher for the 1950-51 and 1954-67 Pirates. His  total of 16 seasons in a Pirates uniform has been topped by just eight players, seven of them Hall of Famers. Law won 162 games, which has been topped by only five pitchers in team history. The Pirates signed Law as an amateur free agent in 1948 out of high school and that first year of pro ball didn’t go so well. He was in the low-level Class-D playing for Santa Rosa of the Far West League, where he had a 4.66 ERA and 96 walks in 110 innings. It didn’t take long for him to start making a good impression. The following season while moving up to Davenport of the Class-B Three-I League, he posted a 2.94 ERA and cut his walks to 75 in 144 innings, while picking up 123 strikeouts. He jumped up to Double-A to start the next year and pitched so well that he was in the majors by early June at 20 years old. With New Orleans of the Southern Association that year, Law went 6-4, 2.67 in 81 innings. For 1950 and 1951, he switched between the bullpen and starting role for the Pirates, winning 13 games and throwing 242 innings over those two seasons. He made 17 starts and ten relief appearances as a rookie, posting a 4.92 ERA. He had 14 starts and 14 relief outings in 1951, while putting up a 4.50 ERA. He had losing records each season, but the Pirates went 121-186 during those years. His baseball career would take a short break as he joined the military during the Korean War and missed all of the 1952-53 seasons.

Law struggled when he returned in 1954. He pitched as a starter (18 starts) and reliever (21 appearances), posting a 9-13, 5.51 record in 161.2 innings. The following season, at age 25, he showed his first sign of being a top-notch pitcher. He went 10-10 for a team that finished 60-94. He lowered his ERA to 3.83 and pitched 200+ (200.2) innings for the first time in his career. He received MVP votes (23rd place finish) for the first of four times during his career. Law made a high number of relief appearances (19) in his 43 games pitched that year, but his 1955 success led to a steady job as a starter for the first time. The Pirates were again bad in 1956 and his record suffered, losing a career high 16 games (with eight wins to his credit), while posting a 4.32 ERA in 195.2 innings. He was just 40-57 through 1956, but during the next 11 seasons he posted a record that was 32 games over the .500 mark.

In 1957, Law went 10-8, dropping his ERA (2.87) below 3.00 for the first time. He threw 172.2 innings that year, starting 25 of his 31 games, finishing with nine complete games and three shutouts. The next season would see him set a career high to that point with 14 wins, a total he would then increase each of the two following seasons. Law also set a personal best with 202.1 innings, but just like with his win total, that too would increase over the next two years. He finished the year with a 14-12, 3.96 record. The 1959 Pirates disappointed after a strong year in 1958, but Law was a bright spot. He went 18-9, 2.98 in 266 innings, throwing a career high 20 complete games. He struck out 110 batters that season, the first of three times he cracked the century mark in strikeouts. His 6.5 WAR for that season was his career best, and it ranked him second best among all National League pitchers. He got mild MVP support that year, finishing 19th in the voting.

That 1960 season was a magical one for Law and the Pirates. He would go 20-9, 3.08 in 271.2 innings over 35 starts, with a league leading 18 complete games. The team would go on to the World Series and defeat the Yankees in seven games, with Law going 2-0 in his three starts. His regular season performance earned him the Cy Young Award. Back when they used to play two All-Star games in one year, Law pitched in both contests, picking up the save in the first one, followed by the start and win in the second game. That year ended up being his only All-Star season, though he actually had two seasons that ranked higher according to WAR. He also finished sixth in the MVP voting, his highest finish for that award. His 120 strikeouts that year were his career high.

In 1961, Law suffered from a shoulder injury, and all he could muster over the next three seasons combined was 17 wins and 42 starts. He was limited to 11 games in 1961, and he had a 4.70 ERA in 59.1 innings. His 1962 season was limited, but he still had a decent year, going 10-7, 3.94 in 139.1 innings. That was followed by a rough campaign in 1963, with Law posting a 4.93 ERA in 76.2 innings. He had an average year in 1964, but the important thing was that he was healthy all season. He went 12-13, 3.61 in 192 innings, making 29 starts (six relief outings), while finishing with seven complete games and five shutouts. Law still had one more great season left in his arm. The 1965 campaign saw him go 17-9 with a career low 2.15 ERA. He pitched 217 innings that year, the only season after 1960 that he was able to top the 200-inning mark. He finished 13 of his 28 starts and he had four shutouts. He ended up 17th in the MVP voting and topped 100 strikeouts (101) for the final time. At 36 years old in 1966, Law put up a 12-8, 4.05 in 177.2 innings. He completed eight of 28 starts, four times throwing shutout ball. He suffered injuries to his elbow and hip that would limit his success in his last two seasons and coax him into retirement after the 1967 season, in which he went 2-6, 4.18 in 97 innings. Law finished with a 162-147, 3.77 record over 2,672 innings, throwing 119 complete games. Besides ranking sixth in team history in wins, he’s fourth in games pitched, fourth in innings, fifth in strikeouts (1,092), third in starts (364) and fifth in shutouts (28). He turns 92 years old today. His son Vance Law played for the 1980-81 Pirates, as part of his 11-year career.

David Williams, pitcher for the 2001-02, 2004-05 Pirates. The Pirates drafted him in the 17th round of the 1998 at 19 years old, taken out of Delaware Technical and Community College. It’s a school that has produced just ten drafted players and Williams is the only one to make the majors. It didn’t take him long to make it either, debuting with the Pirates in 2001, almost exactly three years to the day he was drafted. Williams pitched short-season ball in 1998, putting up a 3.23 ERA in 47.1 innings over 22 appearances for Erie of the New York-Penn League. He split the 1999 season between the NYPL (Pirates affiliate changed to Williamsport) and Low-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, going 7-3, 2.92 with 93 strikeouts in 104.2 innings over 16 starts. He spent almost all of 2000 in Hickory, getting just two starts at High-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League before the year finished. For the season, he went 12-9, 3.18 in 181 innings, while striking out 201 batters. Despite the slow climb during his first three seasons, Williams was in the majors by early June of 2001. After just 11 innings in High-A, in which he had a 6.55 ERA, he started 2001 in Double-A with Altoona of the Eastern League. It took just 58.2 innings for him to get to Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, and his stay there in 2001 lasted two games. Williams went 5-2, 2.61 for Altoona, and he had a 3.38 ERA in his brief Nashville stint. Combined, he had a 2.73 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 69.1 innings. He debuted for the Pirates on June 6th, and he stayed in the majors for the rest of the season. As a rookie, Williams went 3-7, 3.71 in 114 innings, making 18 starts and four relief appearances.

After nine starts in 2002, Williams was placed on the disabled list with a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder, which required season-ending surgery. He was 2-5, 4.98 in 43.1 innings at the time. Once he returned, Williams spent the entire 2003 season back in Triple-A Nashville, where he had a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts, with 56 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. He was in Triple-A for most of 2004, returning to the Pirates as a reliever in August, before moving back to the starting role in September. He went 6-2, 3.47 in 116.2 innings over 21 starts with Nashville that year. He had a 4.42 ERA in 38.2 innings for the Pirates. Williams got in a full big league season in 2005, going 10-11, 4.41 in 25 starts and 138.2 innings. His 88 strikeouts were a career high. That December, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Sean Casey and cash. His stay in Cincinnati wasn’t long. After a 7.20 ERA in eight starts, he was dealt to the New York Mets. Williams pitched 33.1 innings for the Mets over the 2006-07 season, posting a 7.83 ERA, while spending much of his time either in the minors or on the disabled list. He missed the first three full months of 2007 due to a herniated disk, then was designated for assignment shortly after his first game. He ended up coming back in September for one final big league game and allowed three runs in his only inning. He pitched in Japan in 2008, then spent the 2009 season in the minors for the Washington Nationals, before finishing his career in independent ball in 2011. He did not pitch during the 2010 season. Williams briefly coached in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays after retiring. For the Pirates, he went 17-26, 4.25 in 334.2 innings over 58 starts and eight relief appearances. He had a career 4.83 ERA in 408 innings. He threw one complete game in his career and it was a shutout on August 14, 2005, on the road against the Houston Astros.

Greg Hansell, pitcher for the 1999 Pirates. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1989, and by the time he made it to the Pirates in 1999, he had pitched three seasons in the majors with three different teams. Hansell was 18 years old when the Red Sox took him in the tenth round out of John F Kennedy HS in California. He went 3-2, 2.53 in 57 innings in the Gulf Coast League in 1989. He began 1990 in the High-A Florida State League with Winter Haven, where he went 7-10, 3.59 in 115.1 innings over 21 starts. Just one year after being drafted, he was traded to the New York Mets, where he stayed in the same league with St Lucie, going 2-4, 2.84 in 38 innings over six starts to finish out the season. In December of 1990, he was traded for a second time, this time going to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would remain for the next five seasons. Hansell was a starting pitcher in the minors and he made a strong first impression with the Dodgers, going to the hitter-friendly California League (High-A) in 1991, where he went 14-5, 2.87 in 150.2 innings, striking out 132 batters. He put up a strong performance for San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League in 1992, going 6-4, 2.83 in 92.1 innings over 14 starts, which earned him a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League. His fast-track to the majors ended there. Hansell had a 5.24 ERA in 13 starts for Albuquerque that year. He spent the next two seasons in the same place, putting up a 6.93 ERA over 101.1 innings in 1993, before moving to relief in 1994, where he had a lot of success. His chance at the majors that season was derailed by the August strike that ended the year early, but he remained solid at Albuquerque, another high offense park, where he had a 2.99 ERA, eight saves and a 31:101 BB/SO ratio in 123.1 innings.

Hansell made the Dodgers Opening Day roster in 1995 and struggled in his first big league trial. In 19.1 innings over 20 games (all in relief), he had a 7.45 ERA. He returned to Triple-A, then got traded to the Minnesota Twins on July 31st, where he pitched in Triple-A to finish out the year. His best year in the majors was 1996 when he went 3-0 with three saves in 50 relief appearances for the Twins. Despite the winning record and a chance to close games, he had a 5.69 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP over 74.1 innings. The Boston Red Sox picked him up on waivers after the season, then released him late in Spring Training of 1997. He signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and had a very brief stint in the majors, giving up five runs over 4.2 innings in three appearances. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for 1998, but once again he was released near the end of Spring Training. Hansell ended up spending all of 1998 in Triple-A, splitting his time between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s, posting a 2.69 ERA and 13 saves in 83.2 innings over 59 games He had pitched a total of 73 Major League games prior to 1999, and his career ERA was 6.22 up to that point. He signed with the San Francisco Giants during the winter, and for the third straight year he was a late Spring Training cut. Pittsburgh signed him as a free agent five days later, just as the 1999 season got under way, sending him to Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, where he had a 2.00 ERA in 22 games. He was called up in June and pitched 39.1 innings over 33 games with a 3.89 ERA and 34 strikeouts. The Pirates sold Hansell to a Japanese team in December of 1999 and he pitched five more seasons without making it back to the majors. He split that time between Japan (2000-02) and back in the minors, spending time with the New York Yankees in 2003 and the Diamondbacks in 2004. He pitched a total of 1,466.2 innings over his 16 seasons in pro ball.

Raul Mondesi, outfielder for the 2004 Pirates. He was a Rookie of the Year winner, an All-Star, a two time Gold Glove winner and seven times in his career he drove in 84 or more runs, but by the time he reached the Pirates at age 33 in 2004, his career was nearly over. Mondesi was signed at 17 years old out of the Dominican Republic by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. It took him three seasons to establish himself as a prospect. His first two seasons (1988-89) were spent in the Dominican Summer League. In 1990, he hit .303 with eight homers, 30 steals and an .892 OPS in 44 games for Great Falls of the short-season Pioneer League. The Dodgers jumped him all of the way to High-A ball, skipping two levels in 1991. He stayed there just 28 games before heading to Double-A, then finished the year in Triple-A. He put up a .283 average and an .802 OPS with Bakersfield of the High-A California League. In Double-A with San Antonio of the Texas League, he hit .272 with 21 extra-base hits in 53 games. His promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League was just two games. Mondesi combined to hit .277 with 34 extra-base hits and 18 steals in 83 games. His 1992 season was a rough one due to an injury and a discipline issue that limited him to 53 games. He split his time between San Antonio and Albuquerque, seeing better results at the higher level, combining to hit .296 with 21 extra-base hits and 29 RBIs. He stole just five bases in ten attempts, and he had ten walks, which was actually a slight bump in his walk rate over the previous season.

Mondesi bounced back in 1993 to make the majors by July. He hit .280 in 110 games that year with Albuquerque, collecting 22 doubles, 12 homers and 13 steals in 23 attempts. He had two separate stints with the Dodgers that year, hitting .291 in 42 games, with an .811 OPS. He was still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award in 1994 and he took that title by hitting .306 with 27 doubles, eight triples, 16 homers and 56 RBIs in 112 games during the strike-shortened season. Once the 1995 season got started in late April, Mondesi picked up right where he left off, hitting .285 with 91 runs, 23 doubles, six triples, 26 homers, 88 RBIs and 27 steals in 31 attempts in 157 games. He made his only All-Star appearance that year and won the Gold Glove award, while spending most of his time in right field, with occasional center field starts. For the second year in a row, he led the National League with 16 outfield assists.

He had another strong year in 1996, hitting .297 with 40 triples, 24 homers, 88 RBIs and 14 steals, while scoring a career best 98 runs. Mondesi took it to another level in 1997, putting together a 30/30 HR/SB season, while finishing 15th in the MVP voting. He set career highs with 159 games played, a .310 average, 42 doubles and 191 hits, while also hitting 30 homers, stealing 32 bases and driving in 87 runs. He won his second (and final) Gold Glove award. In 1998, Mondesi saw a drop in his average (.279), walks (30), OPS (.813) and steals (16 in 26 attempts), but he still managed to score 85 runs, hit 30 homers and drive in 90 runs for the first time. His average dropped to .253 in 1999, but it was still a strong season. He set career highs with 33 homers and 99 RBIs, His career high 36 steals gave him a second 30/30 season, and he drew 71 walks. His previous high for walks was 44 in 1997. He had 29 doubles, five triples and tied his career high with 98 runs scored. In November of 1999, Mondesi was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. He remained there for 2+ seasons and saw a decline in his stats, putting up a .798 OPS in 320 games, compared to the .838 OPS he put up in 916 games with the Dodgers.

Mondesi hit .271 in 96 games in 2000, with 24 homers and 67 RBIs. He injured his elbow in late July and ended up playing just one game in September over the final 2 1/2 months of the season. His 2001 season saw him hit .252 in 149 games, with 88 runs, 26 doubles, 27 homers, 30 steals, 84 RBIs and a career best 73 walks. He also led the league in outfield assists with 18, which was his career high. The Blue Jays traded him to the New York Yankees in July of 2002 and he continued to see a drop to his OPS, while still being a run producer. Between both stops that year, he hit .232 in 143 games, with 90 runs, 34 doubles, 26 homers, 88 RBIs, 15 steals and 59 walks. In 2003, playing for the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, Mondesi hit a combined .272 with 24 homers and 22 stolen bases in 143 games. It was his sixth 20/20 HR/SB season. In 169 games with the Yankees, he had a .777 OPS, with 95 RBIs and 92 runs scored. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in late February of 2004. He played just 26 games before he asked to return to his home in the Dominican Republic due to a lawsuit, and what he said was concerns over his family and their safety. When he didn’t return to the Pirates on time, they put him on waivers, then released him when no one picked him up. He hit .283 for the Pirates, with two homers, 14 RBIs and a .779 OPS. Mondesi signed with the Anaheim Angels nine days later, but got hurt within eight games of signing. After missing his rehab assignment, he was cut. He played with the Atlanta Braves in 2005, but they cut him after just two months and a .211 average, ending his career at 34 years old. He finished with a .273 average, 319 doubles, 271 homers, 909 runs scored, 860 RBIs and 229 stolen bases in 1,525 games over 13 seasons. Mondesi finished with 29.5 career WAR, though the 1995-97 seasons with the Dodgers saw him accumulate more than half of that total (15.2 WAR). His son Adalberto has been in the majors since 2015 with the Kansas City Royals. He made his big league debut in the postseason and won the World Series before playing his first regular season game.

Reb Russell, outfielder for the 1922-23 Pirates. He began his career as a successful pitcher, injured him arm, retired from baseball, then came back to the majors as a strong-hitting outfielder for the Pirates. He had just 13 games of minor league experience on the mound before debuting in the majors with the 1913 Chicago White Sox at 24 years old. He played for Fort Worth of the Class-B Texas League in 1912, going 4-4 in 70.1 innings, while allowing 2.18 runs per nine innings (ERA isn’t available). He also played 28 games for Bonham of the Class-D Texas-Oklahoma League, hitting a combined .296 on the year, though he had just three extra-base hits in those 41 games. Russell pitched 316.2 innings as a rookie with the White Sox in 1913, winning 22 games (with 16 losses) and posting a 1.90 ERA. He threw eight shutouts. He made 36 starts and pitched another 16 times in relief, leading all American League pitchers with 52 appearances. He finished 14th in the MVP voting. At the plate, he hit .189 , with a .524 OPS in 112 plate appearances.

Russell had a bit of a sophomore slump, but still put up a decent ERA that was average for the deadball era (American League had a 2.73 ERA in 1914). Russell had a 7-12, 2.90 record in 167.1 innings in 1914. He hit .266, though it was an empty average due to two extra-base hits and one walk. He bounced back in 1915, going 11-10, 2.59 in 229.1 innings, making 25 starts and 16 relief appearances. He had ten complete games and three shutouts. He put up a .244 average and a .631 OPS. For the third straight season, he finished with seven RBIs. In 1916, Russell went 18-11, 2.42 in 25 starts and 31 relief appearances, throwing a total of 264.1 innings. He had 16 complete games, five shutouts and three saves. He hit just .143 with two doubles and no walks that year, but he was much better at the plate in 1917. He had a strong overall season for the 1917 White Sox, helping them to the World Series that year. Russell went 15-5, 1.95 in 189.1 innings, with 24 starts (11 relief appearances), 11 complete games, five shutouts and three saves. He batted .279 with a .712 OPS that year. He pitched once in the World Series, starting game five, and all three batters he faced reached base before he was removed.

Russell’s work was somewhat limited in 1918, though the season was shortened due to the war. He went 7-5, 2.60 in 124.1 innings over 15 starts and four relief appearances. He threw ten complete games and two shutouts. Six years after his great debut season, he faced just two batters in his only outing for the 1919 White Sox (known now as the Black Sox), before being sent to the minors where he played outfield for Minneapolis of the American Association. He tried to pitch for the White Sox in 1920, but didn’t make the team and decided to retire. He had a record of 80-59, 2.33 in 1,291.2 innings over 242 Major League games and never had an ERA higher than 2.90 in any of his six full seasons. The Minneapolis team he played for in 1919 asked him to come back to play the next year when they were short on players and he did, as a full-time outfielder. He hit .339 in 85 games in 1920, then followed it up with a .368 average and 33 homers in 1921.

In 1922 Russell was hitting .331 with 17 homers through 77 games when the Pirates signed him to play right field. He was not a good fielder according to reports, but he could certainly hit. He played 60 games the rest of the way for Pittsburgh and drove in an amazing 75 runs, while batting .368 in just 220 at-bats. He hit a team leading 12 homers that year, thanks in part to two big days at the plate. On August 25th and September 1st the Pirates played doubleheaders each day. Russell connected for three homers on each day, doubling his previous home run output during a seven-day span. He actually didn’t hit a homer during the last 23 games of the season, so his team leading total came in just 37 games. In 1923 Russell wasn’t nearly the strong hitter he was the previous season, and by the end of July, despite raising his batting average 33 points that month, the Pirates sent him to the bench. He returned to the minors in 1924, playing another seven seasons before retiring, finishing with a .329 minor league average in 1,314 games In 1925 he hit 30 homers for Columbus of the American Association, and in 1927 he put up a .385 average for in 128 games for Indianapolis of the American Association. Russell hit .323 in 154 games for the Pirates, with 100 runs scored, 32 doubles, 15 triples and 21 homers, along with 133 RBIs. It’s interesting to note that they played 154-game schedules back then, so he basically played one full season with the team and drove in 133 runs, two more than the single-season team record for RBIs set by Paul Waner in 1927. He was a .209 hitter with one homer and 39 RBIs in 268 games with the White Sox.

Denny Lyons, third baseman for the Pirates in 1893-94 and 1896-97. He was a star in the American Association for five seasons before the league folded, forcing him to the National League. Lyons debuted in the majors at 19 years old, playing four late-season games for Providence of the National League. That was also his first year of pro ball, which he spent with Columbus of the Southern League, where he hit .227 with 17 extra-base hits and 50 runs scored in 94 games. He spent most of 1886 with Atlanta of the Class-B Southern Association, batting .327 in 79 games, with 72 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 29 steals. He also saw time that year with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association, batting .211 in 32 games. That was enough to get him a starting spot for the next year and he responded with a big season.  In 1887, he batted .367 with 128 runs scored in 137 games. He had 43 doubles, 14 triples, 73 stolen bases, 102 RBIs and a .943 OPS. On defense, he set a still standing record for putouts in a season by a third baseman with 255. Lyons saw a drop in his stats in 1888, but still did well compared to league averages.  He hit .296, with 33 extra-base hits, 83 RBIs, 39 steals and 93 runs scored in 111 games. He improved the next year, hitting .329 in 131 games, with 135 runs scored, 36 doubles, nine homers, 82 RBIs and 79 walks. His .895 OPS was an improvement of 126 points over the previous season.

In 1890, Lyons led the league with a .461 OBP and .531 slugging percentage, while leading all third basemen with a .909 fielding percentage. He batted .354 that season in 88 games, with 79 runs scored, 41 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs, 21 steals and 57 walks. His .995 OPS was a career high, and one of three times he reached the .900 mark in a season. He finished his time in the American Association with the 1891 St Louis Browns, batting .315 with 124 runs scored, 84 RBIs and 88 walks in 120 games. He had 24 doubles and a career high 11 homers. After the American Association went out of business following the 1891 season, Lyons played for the New York Giants in 1892 and did not hit well compared to his standards, batting .257, which was well below his .325 career average coming into the season. His .755 OPS that year, helped out by 31 extra-base hits and 59 walks in 108 games, was still 111 points over league average, so it was not a bad season. He signed with the Pirates for 1893 and regained his form at the plate, hitting .306 with career highs of 97 walks, 105 RBIs and 16 triples, along with 103 runs scored. He also led all third basemen in putouts that year. The Pirates signed Lyons after they had a dispute with 1892 third baseman Duke Farrell, who claimed that he had a three-year contract with the Pirates and refused a pay cut after a poor 1892 season.

Lyons hit well in 1894, but missed nearly half of the season. His .876 OPS that year looks great, but it was a huge year for offense after the league decided to change the pitching distance and how pitchers could deliver pitches. It took pitchers more than a year to adjust and hitters feasted off of them in the meantime. Lyons batted .319 in 1894, which ranked him fourth among regulars for the Pirates, with three part-time players also hitting better. He scored 52 runs, had 51 RBIs and 43 walks in 72 games. He moved on to St Louis in 1895, where he played just 34 games and put up a .295 batting average before getting injured in a collision in mid-May. St Louis released him a month later because he was injured, then he re-signed with Pittsburgh on November 16th. Lyons returned to the Pirates in 1896 and hit .307 with 77 runs, 67 walks and 71 RBIs in 118 games. That would be his last good season in the majors, and by July of 1897 his time with the Pirates (and the majors) was done. He hit just .206 in 37 games during his final year. He returned to the minors for three seasons, didn’t play for two years (1901-02), then returned for one more year in 1903 as a player-manager for Beaumont of the South Texas League. He also managed in the minors in 1906. Lyons was a .310 hitter in the majors over 1,123 games, with 933 runs, 244 doubles, 69 triples, 62 homers, 756 RBIs, 224 steals and 623 walks. His .850 OPS and solid defense helped him to a career mark of 35.5 WAR. With the Pirates, he hit .299 in 358 games, with 254 RBIs and 244 runs scored.

Phil Knell, pitcher for the 1888 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and 1894 Pirates. Knell made his Major League debut with the Alleghenys at 23 years old on July 6, 1888. He lasted with the team for three starts, then didn’t appear in the majors again until 1890, when he was with the Philadelphia Athletics of the Player’s League. He had almost no pro experience prior to joining the Alleghenys, starting his minor league time on June 19, 1887 for Greenhood and Moran of the California League, often referred to as the San Francisco club back then, though it’s called Oakland now. However, he already had a reputation, as his arrival in Pittsburgh on July 1, 1888 was met in the local papers by the line “Knell, the California wonder, has arrived”. It took Pittsburgh owner William Nimick some time to finally come to an agreement with the Oakland club for Knell’s release, and it took some time for Knell to arrive from the west coast. He deal was finalized on June 20th and announced in the local papers on June 23rd, eight days before his arrival. The scout for the Alleghenys who watched Knell, wasn’t a scout at all. It was catcher/outfielder Fred Carroll’s father, who was a baseball fan. Nimick had Carroll’s father watch 12 starts for Knell and keep stats. His report was that Knell allowed just one earned run in those 12 games and struck out 129 batters.

In his July 6th debut, Knell won 3-2 over Washington, with Fred Carroll as his catcher. It was not a great outing though, with seven walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches to his credit. The local papers said that he showed some good curves, speed and he did a good job of holding runners. He was supposed to pitch on July 18th against the Philadelphia Quakers (Phillies) but the game was rained out. The Alleghenys left on a road trip and Knell stayed behind to workout with catcher Jocko Fields. Knell was supposed to pitch during an early August series against Detroit, but captain Ned Hanlon talked manager Horace Phillips out of using him in that series. The local papers kept noting that he was anxious to pitch his second game, but the Alleghenys were doing well and didn’t want to make any changes. He finally got into his second game on August 25th during the second game of a doubleheader and lost 7-6 to Indianapolis, giving up five runs early, before setting down for two runs over the final seven innings. Two days later, he lost 10-1 to Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader. He was wild and Fred Carroll committed four errors behind the plate. Knell was left home during an early September road trip, then got released on September 13th, ending his time in Pittsburgh.

Knell pitched in the minors in 1889, splitting the year between Omaha and St Joseph of the Western Association, combining for a 14-20 record, 314 innings pitched, 157 walks and 225 strikeouts. He returned to the majors when the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season. He went 22-11, 3.83 in 286.2 innings for the Philadelphia Athletics of the Player’s League. He led the league with 28 hit batters. The Player’s League was finished after one season and he signed with Columbus of the American Association in 1891, the final season for that league at the Major League level. Knell went 28-27, 2.92 and threw 462 innings. He hit 54 batters that season, the most in baseball history for a season, 11 more than the second highest total. He also struck out 228 batters, which ranked second in the league, and he led the league with five shutouts. He spent 1892 in the National League, splitting the season between the Phillies and Washington Senators. Knell went 14-18, 3.78 in 250 innings, with 170 of those innings coming with Washington. He hit 22 batters that year to lead the league, giving him that dubious honor three straight years in three different leagues.

Knell pitched in California in 1893, then played with the Pirates for one game in 1894 (The Pirates actually went by the name “Braves” that season). He was with the club during Spring Training, and on May 2nd, the team took a three-hour batting practice session against him because they needed practice against the left-handed pitcher. Five days later, he was the third pitcher used in a 17-6 loss, giving up nine runs in seven innings. He was released the next day. He went to the Louisville Colonels of the National League to finish the year, where he posted a 7-21, 5.32 record in 257 innings pitched. His final big league season in 1895 saw him split the year between Louisville (0-6 record) and the Cleveland Spiders (7-5). He had a 5.76 ERA in 173.1 innings that year. In six years in the majors, he went 79-90, 4.05 in 1,452.1 innings. He had 163 starts, 141 complete games and eight shutouts, along with 29 relief appearances. He ended up pitching in the minors off and on until age 43 in 1908, mostly playing in California during that time.

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