This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 24th, Two Notable Opening Days

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and two Opening Days of note.

The Players

Ryan Reid, pitcher for the 2013 Pirates. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, selected in the seventh round out of James Madison University.  It took him seven seasons to make the majors, and his big league stay was brief. Reid had a rough debut in the New York-Penn League in 2006, going 1-9, 6.24 in 53.1 innings for Hudson Valley. That was his only season spent as a starting pitcher in pro ball. He moved to relief in 2007 and had a solid season in Low-A with Columbus of the South Atlantic League, going 6-5, 2.97 with ten saves in 72.2 innings over 39 games. Reid dominated High-A ball in 2008 with Vero Beach of the Florida State League, allowing one run in 31 innings. He didn’t do as well in Double-A that year that year with Montgomery of the Southern League, posting a 4.66 ERA in 46.1 innings. On the season, he had 12 saves and 98 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the season and put up a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. Reid was back with Montgomery for all of 2009 and 2010, posting similar results each year. He had a 4.17 ERA in 58.1 innings over 42 games in 2009, followed by a 3.98 ERA in 72.1 innings over 43 games in 2010. His strikeout rate dropped each year and he had just three saves total over the two seasons. He split the 2011 season between Montgomery and Triple-A Durham of the International League, combining for a 5.05 ERA, 63 strikeouts and one save in 71.1 innings over 35 games, which included five starts. He did very well in winter ball in Venezuela, working as a closer, putting up a 1.86 ERA and ten saves in 18 appearances.

Reid spent the 2012 season in Durham, where he had a 3.52 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 79.1 innings over 46 games (three starts). The Pirates signed him as a minor league free agent during the 2012-13 off-season, when he was once again a strong closing pitcher in Venezuela. Reid made his big league debut on June 3, 2013 and pitched his final big league game on July 4th, 31 days later. In seven relief appearances, he allowed two runs over 11 innings. At the time of his call up, he had an 0.52 ERA in 34.1 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League. He was optioned to the minors on July 7th when A.J. Burnett was activated off of the disabled list. After being sent down, he had a 5.84 ERA over the rest of the season. The Pirates lost Reid via waivers to the New York Mets after the season. He spent the 2014 season in Las Vegas of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League for the Mets, posting a 4.91 ERA in 69.2 innings. He pitched winter ball in Venezuela after the season, but did not pitch at all during the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. Reid returned for one more season in 2016, splitting the year between independent ball with Somerset of the Atlantic League, and six appearances in High-A for the Miami Marlins at the start of the year. He allowed one run in 8.2 innings with the Marlins, then made 14 appearances without an earned run before deciding to retire in late July of 2016.

Bob Beall, pinch-hitter for the 1980 Pirates. He was a 28th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970 out of Oregon State University. He had a huge first season of pro ball playing in the short-season Northwest League, hitting .389 with 81 runs scored, 95 walks, 14 steals and 28 extra-base hits in 80 games, playing every game of the season. He had a .556 OBP that season and a 1.125 OPS. The Phillies moved him up just one level in his first full season of pro ball in 1971. Playing in Class-A with Peninsula of the Carolina League, he hit .314, with 78 runs, 31 doubles, eight triples, five homers, 63 RBIs and 110 walks in 138 games. Beall was up in Double-A for all of 1972, where he hit .283 with 82 runs scored, 34 extra-base hits, 132 walks and a .455 OBP in 139 games for Reading of the Eastern League. He advanced to Triple-A Eugene of the Pacific Coast League for 1973, where he saw his average drop to .234, though 98 walks contributed to a .399 OBP. In 114 games, he had 71 runs, 26 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs. For the fourth straight season, his OPS saw a significant drop, finishing with a .738 mark that year. After the season, the Phillies traded him to the Atlanta Braves for veteran big league infielder Gil Garrido.

Beall became more of a singles hitter in 1974 with Triple-A Richmond of the International League, ending up with just 24 extra-base hits in 139 games, though he hit .286 with 136 walks and 105 runs scored. Due to the higher average and extra walks, his OPS went up 99 points. That still wasn’t enough to get him to the majors. He saw a drop again in his average in 1975, but Beall made his Major League debut with the Braves in May, hitting .226 in 20 games before being sent back to the minors in June. He finished the year with a .235 average and .749 OPS in 78 games for Richmond, where he spent each of the next two seasons before returning to the majors in 1978. In 1976, Beall hit .306 in 109 games, with 135 walks, which led to a .500 OBP. He also added 85 runs, 33 extra-base hits and 55 RBIs. In 1977, he batted .281 in 138 games, with 89 runs, 29 doubles, nine homers, 45 RBIs and 133 walks.

In his only full season in the majors in 1978, Beall hit .243 with 29 runs, nine extra- base hits, 16 RBIs and a .368 OBP in 108 games. He made 30 starts at first base and four starts in center field, while playing the other 74 games off of the bench. He started the 1979 season with the Braves, but was sent down after going 0-for-9 in his first 12 games. He returned in September and finished the year with a .133 average in 17 games. He was hitting .248 in 57 games with Richmond when the Pirates acquired him in a trade on July 16, 1980 in exchange for minor league second baseman Jerry McDonald. Beall hit just .217 in 45 games at Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League after the trade, but he was still a September call-up for the Pirates, pinch-hitting three times over the last 31 games without collecting a hit or playing in the field. He spent all of 1981 at Portland, putting up a .487 OBP in 62 games, in what would be his last season of pro ball. Beall pitched three times for Richmond between 1974-75, throwing shutout ball each time. He pitched five times in 1980, allowing 16 runs in 14 innings. He then pitched 13 times for Portland in 1981, posting a 6.43 ERA in 28 innings. He wasn’t involved in any pitching decisions (or saves) during those 21 career appearances. He had a .453 OPS in 1,131 minor league games, with 993 hits and 1,037 walks. He finished his big league career with a .231 average in 148 games, with 32 runs scored, 12 doubles, one homer, 18 RBIs and a .355 OBP, due to 45 walks in 285 plate appearances.

Dixie Howell, catcher for the 1947 Pirates. He was originally signed at 18 years old as an amateur free agent in 1938 by the Brooklyn Dodgers, but didn’t make his big league debut until 1947 with the Pirates. He spent his first two seasons playing Class-D level ball, hitting .268 with 42 runs, 16 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs in 81 games for Thomasville of the Georgia-Florida League in 1938. That was followed by a .312 average and 30 extra-base hits in 86 games for Dover of the Eastern Shore League in 1939. He played for four teams during the 1940 season, making all the way to the top of the minor league system for a brief time with Baltimore of the Double-A International League. He spent time with two clubs in the Class-B Interstate League (no stats available), but the majority of his year was spent with Ottawa-Ogdensburg of the Class-C Canadian-American League, where he hit .363 with 16 extra-base hits in 45 games. Howell split the 1941 season between Baltimore and Montreal (also of the International League), then stayed in Montreal for the next two seasons. His stats are incomplete for that year, but they show a .223 average in 93 games (74 with Baltimore). He hit just .171 in 62 games in 1942, finishing with a lowly .524 OPS. He batted .259 in 110 games during the 1943 season, with 47 runs, 14 doubles, 42 RBIs, 43 walks and 15 stolen bases. He wasn’t much of a power hitter during those first six seasons, topping out at 30 extra-base hits in a year, but he had some decent walk rates.

Howell missed the 1944-45 seasons while serving in the military during WWII. He returned in 1946 and hit .295 with 46 runs, 14 doubles, six homers and 41 RBIs in 84 games for Montreal. The Pirates acquired Howell, along with four other players from the Dodgers on May 3, 1947, in exchange for Al Gionfriddo and at least $100,000 in cash. Howell debuted in the majors right away and hit .276 with 11 doubles, four homers 25 RBIs and a .740 OPS in 76 games for the Pirates during that 1947 season. He received the most playing time out of five catchers who played 12+ games behind the plate that season for the Pirates. On January 15, 1948 he was traded to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to complete an earlier deal for highly touted pitcher Bob Chesnes. After hitting .292 with an .826 OPS in 119 games for San Francisco in 1948, Howell would end up playing another 264 games in the majors over parts of seven seasons. He was a backup catcher for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1949-51 seasons, starting a total of 168 games over that three-year span. He was consistent at the plate during that time, playing between 64 and 82 games each year, while his OPS ranged from .611 to .625 those seasons. His best year was 1950 when he reached his high marks during that three-year stretch in both games and OPS, despite it being the year of his lowest average (.223). He set career highs with 30 runs and 32 walks that year.

Howell became a third-string catcher during the 1952 season, playing a total of 17 games, while going 112 games between starts at one point. He batted just 40 times all year and hit .189, though some power during that time led to a .682 OPS. Howell spent most of 1953 in the minors with St Paul of the Triple-A American Association, playing just one game with the Dodgers, who reacquired him in a trade after the 1952 season ended. After hitting .307 in 107 games in 1954 with Montreal of the International League (then a Triple-A league), he returned to the majors as one of two backups for Roy Campanella in 1955. Howell batted .262 in 16 games that year, then played his final seven big league games with the Dodgers during the second half of the 1956 season. He finished his career in the minors in 1958 with the Dodgers. In eight big league seasons, he batted .246 with 98 runs, 39 doubles, 12 homers and 93 RBIs in 340 games. He had one stolen base in the majors, coming during his 34th career game. There was an American League pitcher who played six seasons between 1940 and 1958, who also went by the name Dixie Howell. His first name was Millard. The Pirates catcher’s real first name was Homer (why did he have a nickname with that first name!).

Pete Falsey, left fielder for the 1914 Pirates. The Pirates signed Falsey on July 9, 1914 to a two-year deal, one month after he graduated from Yale, where he was a star left fielder for two seasons. He batted .396 in 24 games during the 1914 season in college. Both the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants were interested in Falsey, but the Pirates were able to sign him through help of a former big league player named Jim Canavan, who was said to be good friends with team owner Barney Dreyfuss. Falsey reported to the Pirates four days later at Forbes Field. He made his Major League debut without a single game of minor league ball, pinch-hitting in the second game of a doubleheader on July 16, 1914. Jeff Pfeffer, who would later finish his career with the 1924 Pirates, struck him out to lead off the seventh inning. Falsey batted for Bob Coleman, who was the second of three catchers used by the Pirates in that game. Starter George Gibson was thrown out in the second inning for arguing a strike call. That pinch-hitting appearance turned out to be Falsey’s only big league at-bat. The only note in the local paper about his appearance was possibly in jest, saying that “He stands nice at the plate”. He was used just two more times by the Pirates, once on July 22nd and then again on August 5th, both times as a pinch-runner for Ham Hyatt. In that first pinch-running appearance, Falsey was thrown out at the plate, trying to score from third base on a grounder to Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville. It was said that Falsey failed to show sufficient big league stuff. The Pirates actually placed him on waivers before his second appearance, hoping to receive the waiver price from some team for his services. That was back when players were still able to play for the team while on waivers.

Shortly after the Pirates signed Falsey, they also signed young outfielder Ralph Shafer, who ended up playing just one big league game as a pinch-runner on July 25th (not coincidentally, it was also for Ham Hyatt). They added a third outfielder named John “Zip” Collins at the same time. When the Pirates went on a road trip after their game on July 24th, Shafer and Collins went with the team and Falsey stayed back at Forbes Field to work out. He was called on to join the team in Boston when Shafer was let go on August 2nd. A headline in the local papers on August 4th said that if Falsey arrived by game time that day that he would be in the lineup in place of Max Carey, but that never happened. On August 10th he was given his unconditional release and said to have returned home. Despite signing a two-year deal, his entire time with the team was 33 days. Falsey played for a semi-pro team in the Boston area in 1915 that was made up mostly of former Yale players. He also appeared briefly for Albany of the Class-B New York State League in 1916, where he hit .132 in 18 games. He later played semi-pro ball in Philadelphia, but his entire pro career consisted of 21 games. There is a possibility that he played some pro ball before attending Yale under an assumed name, but those records are unknown. When he signed with the Pirates, it was said that he established himself as a star semi-pro player in New Haven, known more for his pitching back then.

Jim Field, first baseman for the 1885 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his pro career and his Major League career with the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association in 1883, hitting .258 in 75 games, with 31 runs scored, 17 extra-base hits and a .619 OPS. The next year he hit just .233 in 104 games, but he was able to score 74 runs, to go along with his 20 extra-base hits, 23 walks and a .609 OPS. Field was one of nine players the Alleghenys purchased from the Buckeyes on October 30, 1884. The Columbus team folded and sold off all of their players to Pittsburgh, as the American Association went from 12 teams down to eight. Field hit .239 with 28 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs in 56 games for the Alleghenys, before finishing the 1885 season with the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit .208 in 38 games and posted a .538 OPS. He played the first 56 games of the 1885 season at first base for Pittsburgh (through July 4th) then was replaced two days later by newly acquired Milt Scott. That same day the Alleghenys released Field, saying that Scott had the better bat. In a bad twist of fate for Field, Scott took over the Baltimore job at first base in 1886, so he was replaced by the same player twice within nine months.

Field went to the minors leagues in 1886, where he spent 15 more seasons as a player. He appeared back in the majors in 1890 with Rochester of the American Association, where he batted .202 with 16 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and 30 runs scored in 52 games. His .665 OPS that year is his career high. Eight years later he played five mid-season games for the Washington Senators, in what turned out to be his only time in the National League. Over five big league seasons, he batted .230 in 331 games, with 38 doubles, 21 triples, ten home runs and 180 runs scored. RBI stats weren’t recorded during his first two seasons, so he’s only credited with the 50 RBIs he had during his final three seasons. While he never pitched full-time, Field pitched at least one game for six straight season (1890-95), and even pitched a complete game victory over the Philadelphia Athletics on October 9, 1890 while with Rochester.

Most of Field’s minor league time was spent in the northeast, playing for teams in Newark, NJ for five years, Buffalo, NY for five years, as well as two years in Erie, PA and stints in Syracuse and Philadelphia. His only action outside of the north in 18 seasons was 1886, when he played for Savannah of the Southern Association after being let go by Baltimore. Field joined Newark in 1887 and ended up playing for the team in three different leagues in his first three seasons. No stats are available for those years, but Newark finally played a second straight season in a league (Atlantic League) in 1890 and Field hit .276 with 55 runs, 14 doubles and 14 triples in 76 games before returning to the majors with Rochester. He batted .254 with 101 runs scored in 125 games for Buffalo of the Class-A Eastern Association in 1891. In 1892, he was with Albany of the Eastern League, where he hit .228 with 78 runs scored, 27 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 117 games. He remained in the same league with Erie for the next two seasons. In 1893, he batted .273 with 31 extra-base hits and 77 runs in 104 games. In 1894 with Erie, he posted a .344 average in 109 games, with 71 runs and 39 extra-base hits. He joined Buffalo of the Eastern League for the next four years, and had a strong 1895 season, hitting .297 with 101 runs, 34 doubles, 11 triples and five homers in 123 games. No 1896 stats are available, but in 1897 he batted .275 in 130 games, with 100 runs scored and 47 extra-base hits. In his last three seasons of pro ball, he played for six different teams, including his brief stint in the majors. While some of his minor league stats are incomplete, it’s his only known season putting up a .300+ average. His brother Sam Field played parts of two seasons in the majors, appearing in the National Association in 1875 and in the National League during its first year of existence in 1876.

The Opening Days

1919: The Pirates opened up in Chicago against the Cubs after a long layoff between games. The 1918 season was ended early due to the war, wrapping up on September 2nd. On April 24, 1919, Wilbur Cooper was on the mound on a very cold Chicago day and he took a 5-1 loss, with all the runs against him coming in the second inning. The Pirates lineup on that day, which had three future Hall of Famers in a row in the 2-4 spots, was as follows:

Howdy Caton, SS
Max Carey, CF
Casey Stengel, RF
Billy Southworth, LF
George Cutshaw, 2B
Tony Boeckel, 3B
Fritz Mollwitz, 1B
Walter Schmidt, C
Wilbur Cooper, P

1889: The Alleghenys opened their season at home against the Chicago White Stockings with an 8-5 win in front of 4,000 fans. Pud Galvin went the distance for Pittsburgh and was hit hard, plus he had some poor fielding behind him, but he held on for the win. Chicago took a 3-0 lead early before the Alleghenys tied it in the sixth. Chicago came back and scored two in the bottom of the inning (the home team did not always bat lead-off back before a rule changed that practice). Pittsburgh came back with five runs in the seventh and the game ended without another run. Galvin was one of three Hall of Famers in the lineup, joined in Cooperstown by Ned Hanlon and Jake Beckley. The Alleghenys lineup that day was:

Billy Sunday, RF
Ned Hanlon, CF
Jake Beckley, 1B
Fred Dunlap, 2B
Fred Carroll, LF
Doggie Miller, C
Bill Kuehne, 3B
Pop Smith, SS
Pud Galvin, P

Pittsburgh had a crazy schedule that season to open the year. They had eight home games, followed by 22 straight games on the road. They returned for a homestand against the Indianapolis Hoosiers that turned into just one game due to cancellations caused by the Johnstown Flood. They then played another ten straight on the road. That means between May 2 and June 19, they played just one home game.