This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 30th, Phil Garner and the First National League Game

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date including the man they called Scrap Iron. Plus one game of note from 135 years ago.

The Players

Phil Garner, infielder for the 1977-81 Pirates. The Pirates acquired Garner from the Oakland A’s in a nine-player deal on March 15, 1977. Prior to joining Pittsburgh, he had played two full seasons with the A’s and was named to the American League All-Star team during the 1976 season. He was the third overall pick in the 1971 amateur draft (January phase) out of the University of Tennessee, selected one spot behind outfielder Robert Jones, who was picked by the Pirates second overall, and whose minor league/pro career lasted just 34 games. Garner was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round seven months earlier, but he decided to return to school. He debuted in A-Ball, hitting .278 with 73 runs, 22 doubles, 11 homers and 70 RBIs in 116 games for Burlington of the Midwest League. He split the 1972 season evenly between Double-A Birmingham of the Southern League and Triple-A Iowa of the American Association, putting up an .855 OPS in the lower level, then a .796 mark after he was promoted. Combined he hit .262 in 141 games, with 78 runs, 28 doubles, ten triples, 21 homers, 62 RBIs and 57 walks. Garner spent the 1973 season in Triple-A with Tuscon of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .289 with 87 runs, 23 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers, 72 walks and an .837 OPS in 138 games. He was promoted to the majors in September and played nine games off of the bench for the A’s, seeing time at third base in all nine games, though he accumulated just five at-bats.

Garner was in the majors for a brief time in May of 1974, then returned for the rest of the season in late July. He hit .179 in 30 games as a backup infielder, starting just six games, while getting a total of 30 plate appearances. The A’s won their third straight World Series that season, though he did not participate in the postseason. In 1975, Garner was the everyday second baseman, starting 159 of his 160 games played, which led the league. He batted .246 with 32 extra-base hits, 46 runs scored, 54 RBIs and a .641 OPS, while putting up 1.3 WAR on defense. During his first All-Star season in 1976, he batted .261 with 29 doubles, 12 triples, eight homers, 74 RBIs and a .707 OPS. He set career highs in triples and steals (35). The trade to acquire Garner turned out to be a one-sided deal for the A’s, who acquired a lot of young talent, but Garner helped the Pirates win their fifth World Series title and then brought in a lot of value when he was traded years later.

After joining the Pirates, Garner saw most of his time at third base in 1977, but he also played 50 games at second base and saw some time at shortstop as well. He played 153 games that year and hit .260 with 17 homers, 77 RBIs, 32 stolen bases, 35 doubles and 99 runs scored. The home run total, as well as his runs scored and doubles were all career highs. His .766 OPS was a career high to that point, but he would top it in a key season. In 1978, Garner split his time evenly between second base and third base, playing 81 games at each spot (some games he played both positions). That year he had a .261 average, and really liked the number sixty-six. He had 66 walks, 66 runs scored and 66 RBIs on the season. He also added 25 doubles, nine triples, ten homers and 27 steals. The 1979 season was obviously a special one for the Pirates and Garner did his part in helping the team get the World Series title. He again split his time between 2B/3B and hit .293 with 76 runs scored, 32 doubles, eight triples, 11 homers, 59 RBIs 17 steals and 55 walks in 150 games. He finished with a career best .800 OPS In the playoffs he was even better, hitting .417 with a home run in the NLCS against the Reds and .500 in the World Series, with five RBIs against the Baltimore Orioles. In 1980, he became the Pirates regular second baseman, playing 151 games at the spot, while making his second All-Star team. He hit .259 with 27 doubles, 62 runs scored, 58 RBIs and 32 steals. It was a solid year, though his OPS dropped 127 points from his peak during the previous year. Garner put up 2.2 WAR on defense that year, which was his career best and the third best mark at any position in the National League.

In 1981, Garner was hitting nearly .300 through the end of May, but as the strike deadline approached he began to slump and his poor hitting continued through the month of August after the players returned from the 49-day strike. Luckily for Garner, the All-Star game was held right after the strike ended so he was able to make the team for a third time in his career. On August 31, 1981, the Pirates traded Garner to the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Randy Niemann, minor leaguer Kevin Houston and another minor league player named Johnny Ray, who went right to Pittsburgh to fill Garner’s spot at second base, making his Major League debut just two days later. Garner had a .653 OPS in 56 games with the Pirates that season, followed by a .609 OPS in 31 games with the Astros. He remained in Houston through the 1987 season, re-signing with the team multiple times as a free agent. In 1982, he hit .274 with 65 runs, 33 doubles, 13 homers, 24 steals and a career best 83 RBIs. His average dropped to .238 in 1983, though he still added 14 homers, 79 RBIs, 63 walks and 18 steals. Garner improved the batting average in 1984, hitting .278, though he managed just four homers and three steals all season in 128 games. He had 60 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs. His .743 OPS matched his mark from the 1982 season

Garner put up a .268 average with 39 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 65 runs scored in 131 games during the 1985 season. He began to see his playing time decline in 1986 when he hit .265 with 43 runs, 12 doubles, nine homers, 41 RBIs and 12 steals in 107 games. Garner split the 1987 season between the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, batting .206 with five homers, 23 RBIs and a .592 OPS in 113 games, mostly playing off the bench. In his final big league season, he went 2-for-13 at the plate in 15 games for the 1988 San Francisco Giants. Garner finished his 16-year career with a .260 average, 299 doubles, 82 triples, 109 homers, 738 RBIs, 225 stolen bases and 780 runs scored in 1,680 games. With the Pirates, he hit .267 with 325 runs, 125 doubles, 44 homers, 280 RBIs and 112 steals in 664 games. He finished with 29.7 WAR, with his best mark coming in 1979 (4.1). His All-Star season in 1981 was actually his lowest mark (-0.4).  After retiring as a player, he managed for 15 seasons in the majors, seeing time with the Astros, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers, compiling a 985-1,054 record. He led the Astros to the World Series in 2005, his only postseason experience as a manager.

Jeff Reboulet, infielder for the 2003 Pirates. Prior to signing with Pittsburgh, Reboulet had played 11 seasons in the majors, spending time with four different teams. He had played over 900 games at that point and had seen action in over 230 games at three different positions, second base, shortstop and third base. He was originally drafted in the 26th round in 1985 out of LSU by the Houston Astros, but returned to school for one more year. The Minnesota Twins took him in the tenth round in 1986 and he made his big league debut six years later. Reboulet got off to a quick start in pro ball, so his slow ascent to the majors wasn’t in line with his first season. He went right to Advanced A-Ball with Visalia of the California League, where he had a .287 average, 54 runs, 54 walks and a .412 OBP in 72 games. He ended up playing in Double-A during each of the next four seasons, never putting up an OPS over .684 in that stretch. In 1987 for Orlando of the Southern League, he batted .256 in 129 games, with 52 runs, 17 extra-base hits and 58 walks. In 1988, he reached that previously mentioned .684 OPS by batting .255 in 125 games, with 57 runs, 24 doubles, four homers, 41 RBIs, 18 steals and 53 walks. With Orlando in 1989, Reboulet hit .217 in 81 games, with 43 runs and 49 walks, finishing with a .569 OPS.

Reboulet played a total of 30 games in Triple-A with Portland of the Pacific Coast League during the 1988-89 seasons, but spent the entire 1990 season back in Orlando, where he batted .230 with 57 walks and a .307 slugging percentage in 97 games. This doesn’t sound like the story of someone who played over 1,000 big league games, but Reboulet persevered and turned in an admirable career at the highest level. He finally played a full season of Triple-A in 1991 at 27 years old at hit .248 with 50 runs, 27 doubles and 57 walks in 134 games with Portland, putting up a .701 OPS. By May of 1992, he was in the majors. He returned to Portland that year for a short time in June/July, but was in the majors for good once he returned, save for a few late career games. Reboulet added versatility to the Twins in 1992, playing six different positions. He hit just .190.311/.277 in 73 games as a rookie, doing better at the plate before he was sent down mid-season. In 1993, he batted .258, while playing a career high 109 games (73 starts), seeing time at five different positions. He had a .660 OPS, boosted by a solid walk rate. He was a terrific bench player in 1994 and added first base to his resume of positions (he caught a game in 1995, but never pitched). Reboulet had a .703 OPS in 210 plate appearances over 74 games during that strike-shortened season. He started 48 games that year split between the four infield spots, though a majority (31) came at shortstop.

Reboulet batted .292 with 39 runs, 11 doubles and four homers in 87 games in 1995, while putting up a career best .771 OPS. His stats dropped off in 1996 in his last season with the Twins. He played 107 games, hitting .222 with nine extra-base hits (all doubles). His OPS plummeted 213 points from the previous season. He picked up 23 RBIs that year, the same total he put up in 1993 and 1994. Reboulet signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent prior to the 1997 season and spent three years with the team, mostly serving as a backup at second base, shortstop and third base. He hit .237 with nine doubles and four homers in 99 games in 1997, then saw more of a bench role during his last two years in Baltimore. The 1998 season was actually his best with the Orioles, as he put up a .669 OPS, though he played just 79 games and only 33 of those games were starts. He finished 26 games at third base as a defensive replacement for Cal Ripken Jr, during the final season of his streak. Reboulet played 99 games in 1999, but hit just .162 and had 154 at-bats. He had more walks (33) than hits (25) that year. He moved on to the Kansas City Royals for the 2000 season, and saw most of his sporadic playing time at second base, where he made 39 of his 49 starts. He hit .242 in 66 games, with a .605 OPS.

Reboulet played the next two years (2001-02) for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most of his playing time in Los Angeles came in his first season, when he hit .266 in 94 games, with 35 runs and a career high 20 extra-base hits. His .764 OPS that year was just seven points off of his career best. In 2002, Reboulet played 38 games for the Dodgers, hitting .208 with two RBIs in 58 plate appearances. He also saw his first action in the minors since July of 1992. On April 18, 20003, he signed as a free agent with the Pirates, just two weeks short of his 39th birthday. The Pirates started him out in the minors with Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, before recalling him in mid-May. He played 93 games for Pittsburgh that year, spending most of his time at second base, where he played 76 games (62 starts). He hit .241 with 25 RBIs and 37 runs scored in 299 plate appearances. Reboulet retired from baseball after 2003 with a .240 career average, 310 runs, 100 doubles, 20 homers and 202 RBIs in 1,018 games. While he had a few double-digit stolen base seasons in the minors, he ran just 37 times in the majors (22 steals). His defense helped keep him around. He had 10 career WAR and 8.1 dWAR, including a strong 1.2 dWAR during his time in Pittsburgh.

Tony Brottem, catcher for the 1921 Pirates. During Spring Training of 1921, the Pirates thought Brottem was going to be a member of their team, but the commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis stepped in and awarded his rights to the Washington Senators. He had trained with the Pirates prior to the decision by Landis. On June 29th, the Pirates purchased Brottem from the Senators after he played just four games over the first two full months of the season. For Pittsburgh, he played 30 games, starting 25 times behind the plate and he batted .242 with nine RBIs. That would end up being his last season in the majors and sadly, his career had a tragic ending. After playing four seasons (1922-25) for the Louisville Colonels of the Double-A American Association, records of Brottem’s playing days are spotty, but it is known that in 1929 he played for the Daytona Aviators of the Central League. Just two weeks after being released, and believing his baseball career was over, Brottem committed suicide at 38 years old on August 5, 1929. Prior to the 1921 season, his Major League career consisted of 28 games for the 1916-18 St Louis Cardinals.

Brottem began in pro ball at 22 years old in 1913 and played one year each for three different teams in the Class-B Northwestern League. He played 44 games for Victoria in 1913, where he’s credit with a .218 batting average and one extra-base hit, which was a home run. In 1914, he spent the year with Tacoma, hitting .266 in 98 games, with 26 runs and 21 extra-base hits. He then batted .283 with 32 doubles, nine triples and six homers in 128 games for Vancouver in 1915, prior to joining the Cardinals. Brottem batted .182 in 26 games during the 1916 season, while spending the entire year on the big league roster. He batted just 36 times total and had a .462 OPS. He did not start a single game that year and the Cardinals went 1-25 in the games that he played. He spent the 1917 season playing for Omaha of the Class-A Western League, hitting .240 with 25 extra-base hits in 127 games. Most of the 1918 season was spent with Little Rock of the Class-A Southern Association, but he returned to the Cardinals in July for two more big league games, including his first career start. That season was shortened significantly in the minors and a month was taken off in the majors due to WWI.

Brottem played for Little Rock during the 1919-20 seasons. He hit .269 with 36 extra-base hits in 126 games in 1919, then batted .253 with 31 extra-base hits in 138 games in 1920. The Pirates purchased his contract on September 8, 1920, but he didn’t report that fall because Little Rock was in a pennant race. His time with the Pirates ended on October 15, 1921 when he was released back to Little Rock after the Pirates acquired catcher Bubber Jonnard. Brottem had a rough ending to his big league career when the league split up the World Series shares and the Pirates voted him just $200 for his share, while the other players there all year were voted full shares, nearly five times the amount. Commissioner Landis stepped in and told the Pirates that they couldn’t vote smaller shares for a player who was there over the final eight weeks of the season and Brottem was there much longer. After being released to Little Rock, he moved up a level to join Louisville of the American Association for the 1922 season. That league was Double-A, which was the top level of the minors at the time. Brottem averaged 83 games played during the 1922-24 seasons, topping out at a .287 average in 1924, though his extra-base totals dropped each year as his average went up each season. He played just 20 games in 1925, also seeing time with Rochester of the International League, in addition to brief time with Louisville. He became a player-manager for a semi-pro team in 1926, but he was fired early in the season and saw sporadic action until joining Dayton of the Class-B Central League for his final season in 1929. His actual first name was Anton.

The Game

On this date in 1887, the Pittsburgh Pirates (then known as the Alleghenys) played their first National League game. For five seasons, the franchise played in the American Association, which was a rival Major League to the NL at the time. The Alleghenys switched leagues for the 1887 season and opened up against the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). The Alleghenys played at Recreation Park in what was Allegheny City at the time (now part of Pittsburgh) and approximately 10,000 fans showed up for that first NL game to see Pittsburgh take a 6-2 victory. The starting pitchers were a pair of 300-game winners, Pud Galvin (Alleghenys) and John Clarkson. The team’s first batter in NL history was Abner Dalrymple, who was with Chicago during the previous eight seasons. Alex McKinnon was the hitting star of the day. He collected four of the twelve hits that day for Pittsburgh, scored two runs, and missed the cycle by the home run.

The Pittsburgh lineup for that day:

LF Abner Dalrymple
CF Tom Brown
C Doggie Miller
2B Sam Barkley
RF John Coleman
1B Alex McKinnon
3B Art Whitney
SS Pop Smith
P Pud Galvin