This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 2nd, 140th Anniversary of First Game in Franchise History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus the most important game in franchise history took place 140 years ago today.

The Players

Neftali Feliz, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He originally signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic at 17 years old with the Atlanta Braves in 2005. Two years later, he was traded to the Texas Rangers in the seven-player Mark Teixeira deal. Feliz was still in short-season ball at the time. He debuted in pro ball in the Gulf Coast League, where he went 0-2, 4.03 with 42 strikeouts in 29 innings. He made five starts, but also picked up two saves. In 2007, he began the year with Danville of the Appalachian League, going 2-0, 1.98 in 27.1 innings, with 28 strikeouts. After the trade to Texas, he went to Spokane of the short-season Northwest League and had a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings, with 27 strikeouts. In his first full season with the Rangers, Feliz split the year between Low-A Clinton of the Midwest League and Double-A Frisco of the Texas League. He was known as a reliever in the majors, but he made a total of 27 starts in 2008, combining to go 10-6, 2.69 in 127.1 innings, with 153 strikeouts. After that performance, he was rated as the tenth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.

Feliz moved up to Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League for 2009 and split his time between 13 starts and 12 relief appearances. He had a 3.49 ERA in 77.1 innings with 75 strikeouts before being called up to the majors in August. In 20 big league appearances that season, he had a 1.74 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings. He moved into the closer role for the Rangers in 2010, where he was an All-Star for the only time in his career, and the American League Rookie of the Year. In 69.1 innings over 70 appearances, he had a 2.73 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 40 saves. Feliz had a similar season in 2011, posting a 2.74 ERA in 62.1 innings, while picking up 32 saves and 54 strikeouts. His next two seasons were almost completely lost to Tommy John surgery, which came after the Rangers decided to move him to the rotation. He pitched a total of 47.1 innings between his appearances early in 2012 and his brief return in September of 2013. He had a 3.16 ERA in 42.2 innings in 2012, followed by six scoreless appearances in 2013. In 2014, the Rangers had him in the minors for part of the season, but once he returned in July, he pitched great. In 30 appearances, he had a 1.99 ERA in 31.2 innings, while picking up 13 saves.

Prior to his season with the Pirates, Feliz struggled through 2015 and was traded to the Tigers midway through the season. He had a 4.58 ERA in 18 outings with the Rangers and put up a 7.62 mark in 30 outings with Detroit. He had ten saves and a 6.38 ERA in 48 innings that year. He was signed by the Pirates as a free agent on January 6, 2016, inking a one-year deal. Feliz made 62 appearances during his lone season with the Pirates. He posted a 3.62 ERA in 53.2 innings, with 61 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP. He signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017, though he was released in June and signed with the Kansas City Royals, who released him on September 1st. He combined to go 2-5, 5.48 with eight saves in 46 innings over 49 appearances. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018 and spent the entire season in Triple-A, seeing time as a starter and a reliever. That appeared to be the end of his chances to get back to the majors, as he spent the next three winters pitching in the Dominican, before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies on January 4, 2021. After pitching in Triple-A, he was recalled in late June and allowed four runs in one inning over two appearances. He was let go on July 3rd and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After going to Triple-A for six weeks, he joined the Dodgers in late August and made three scoreless appearances before being designated for assignment. He has not signed for 2022 as of this writing. In 362 big league games (355 as a reliever) over ten seasons, he has a 21-20, 3.55 ERA in 393.1 innings, with 107 career saves.

Jose Ascanio, pitcher for the 2009-11 Pirates. He was originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 2001 at 16 years old out of Venezuela. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2002, then moved up to the Gulf Coast League in 2003, where he posted a 4-0, 1.37 record in 26.1 innings over eight relief appearances. Ascanio pitched the entire 2004 season in Low-A with Rome of the South Atlantic League, where he had a 3.84 record in 65.2 innings, with nine saves and 64 strikeouts. He was limited to 20.2 innings during the 2005 season in High-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League after suffering a back injury. In five appearances that year, he managed to compile a 3-1 record, despite a 6.10 ERA. Ascanio then split 2006 between starting work with Myrtle Beach and full-time relief work with Double-A Mississippi of the Southern League, combining to go 5-3, 4.57, with 60 strikeouts in 69 innings. He spent most of 2007 in Mississippi, where he had a 2.54 ERA, 71 strikeouts and ten saves in 78 innings over 40 appearances. Ascanio made his big league debut that July without a single appearance in Triple-A. He was up for three weeks in the majors, then returned to Double-A on August 1st, only to jump back to the majors on August 24th. He ended up pitching 13 games out of the bullpen for Atlanta that season. In 16 innings, he struck out 13 and had a 5.06 ERA.

The Braves traded Ascanio to the Chicago Cubs in December 2007 and he struggled in his brief six-game stay in the majors in 2008, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings. He didn’t do much better in Triple-A with Iowa of the Pacific Coast League that year, putting up a 5.10 ERA in 54.2 innings. In 2009 he pitched much better in Chicago, posting a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings with 18 strikeouts, while posting a 3.16 ERA in 12 starts for Iowa. On July 30, 2009, the Pirates acquired him along with Josh Harrison and Kevin Hart in exchange for pitchers Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. Ascanio ended up getting injured after just two games (two runs over 2.2 innings) and missed the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 (except for two rehab appearances) with a shoulder injury. He made it back to the majors in mid-May of 2011, but lasted just eight games before he was designated for assignment and sent back to the minors for the rest of the season. He allowed five runs in 6.1 innings with the Pirates that season. Ascanio left via free agency following the 2011 season and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2012, though he never pitched in the majors/minors after 2011. He played summer ball in Mexico in 2013-15 and 2018. Ascanio has played 14 seasons of winter ball in Venezuela, including the 2021-22 winter league season. He went 1-3, 5.28, with 41 strikeouts in 46 innings over 43 appearances in his big league career. Not including his year in the Dominican Summer League in 2002, which doesn’t have stats listed, he has pitched 664 games in pro ball.

Clay Carroll, pitcher for the 1978 Pirates. He had a successful 15-year career in the majors as a reliever, pitching 1,353.1 innings over 731 games, with 96 wins, a 2.94 ERA and 143 saves. He was an outstanding playoff pitcher during his career, posting a 1.39 ERA in 32.1 innings over 22 appearances. His career was near the end when he signed with the Pirates as a free agent after the Chicago White Sox had released him just prior to the start of the 1978 season. Carroll was an amateur free agent signing at 20 years old in 1961 by the Milwaukee Braves. He had a 7-10, 4.20 record and 94 strikeouts in 122 innings in 1961, pitching Class-D ball with Davenport of the Midwest League, which was the lowest level of the minors at the time. He moved up one step in 1962 to Boise of the Class-C Pioneer League and had a solid season, going 14-7, 3.83 in 181 innings, while finishing with 223 strikeouts. Carroll split the 1963 season between Double-A Austin of the Texas League and Triple-A Denver of the Pacific Coast League, combining to go 11-11, 4.30 in 182 innings. After averaging more than a strikeout per inning during the previous year, he had just 105 strikeouts in 1963. He pitched for the same two teams/levels in 1964, going 10-8, 3.25 in 144 innings, with 101 strikeouts. That performance led to a shot at the majors in September, where he went 2-0, 1.77 in 20.1 innings for the Braves.

Carroll split the 1965 season between starting in Triple-A Atlanta of the International League, and pitching in relief with Milwaukee. He had a 4.41 ERA in 34.2 innings with the Braves. He spent all of 1966 in the majors, as the Braves moved their franchise to Atlanta. Carroll went 8-7, 2.37 with 11 saves, throwing 144.1 innings over a league-leading 73 appearances. His performance dropped off greatly in 1967, with a 6-12, 5.52 record in 93 innings over seven starts and 35 relief appearances. He even saw some minor league time that year. He started off 1968 poorly, then bounced back in June after being part of a six-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a 4.84 ERA in 22.1 innings prior to the deal in a year where offense dried up around baseball, then had a 2.29 ERA after the trade. With the Reds over the final 3 1/2 months, he made 58 appearances, threw 121.2 innings, and piled up 17 saves. He was a workhorse in 1969, piling up 150.2 innings over 71 appearances, which included four starts. He went 12-6 with a 3.52 ERA. His 90 strikeouts that year were his career high in the majors. In 1970, Carroll went 9-4, 2.95, with 16 saves, in 104.1 innings over 65 appearances. He was outstanding in the playoffs, throwing a total of 10.1 scoreless innings over six appearances, as the Reds lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. He was even better in 1971, as he seemed to thrive with fewer innings per season. He went 10-4, 2.50 with 15 saves, in 93.2 innings over 61 games. He also made his first All-Star appearance that season.

Carroll had a strong 1972 season, putting up a 2.25 ERA in 96 innings, while leading the league with 65 appearances and a career high 37 saves. That save total was an MLB record, though it lasted just one season before being broken by John Hiller in 1974. Carroll pitched five times in the World Series that year, allowing one run over 5.2 innings, though the Reds lost to the Oakland A’s. He made his second (and final) All-Star appearance in 1972, while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting and 13th in the MVP voting. Carroll wasn’t as sharp in 1973, with an 8-8, 3.69 record in 92.2 innings, finishing with 14 saves. It was his last year as a regular closer, though he still picked up 24 saves over his final five seasons. In the playoffs, he allowed one run over seven innings. Carroll had a strong 1974 season, going 12-5, 2.15 with six saves in 100.2 innings over 57 appearances (three starts). He finished eighth in the Cy Young voting.

He was nearly as good in 1975 when the Reds broke through to win the World Series. During the season, he had a 7-5, 2.62 record and seven saves in 96.1 innings over 56 appearances. In the playoffs, he allowed two runs over 6.2 innings. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the season and went 4-4, 2.56 in 77.1 innings in 1976. He was pitching in long relief, making just 29 appearances, though he picked up six saves. The White Sox traded him to the St Louis Cardinals, who dealt him back to the White Sox that same August, seven months before he joined the Pirates. Carroll pitched 59 games and 101.1 innings during the 1977 season, posting a 2.75 ERA. He did much better in St Louis, posting a 2.50 ERA in 90 innings. He spent most of 1978 in the minors, joining the Pirates in September when the rosters expanded. He pitched 31 times in Triple-A Columbus of the International League, where he had a 3.90 ERA in 60 innings, while saving seven games. He saw very limited action in the majors that year, pitching at the end of a 10-3 loss on September 11th, and then he pitched two more innings 20 days later on the last day of the season. Both of his outings were against the Philadelphia Phillies. Carroll was released following the season and he pitched briefly in the minors in 1979 with the Milwaukee Brewers before retiring. When he finished up with 143 saves in 1979, the all-time leader in that category was Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had 228 saves.

Freddy Sale, pitcher for the 1924 Pirates. With Pittsburgh down 7-3 to the Cardinals in the eighth inning on June 30, 1924, Fred Sale just recently out of the University of Georgia, made his Major League debut. He allowed singles to the first two batters he faced, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters and a double play later, Sale left the mound without allowing a run. The Pirates were unable to make a comeback and Sale’s big league career was over. He was signed by the Pirates on May 22, 1924, though they had scouts watching his starts much earlier that season. His college career record was reported as being 24-7 when he signed with the Pirates. He was also known as a solid hitter. On April 30, 1923, Sale gained some fame by pitching a perfect game against the Univ. of Virginia, striking out eight batters in his 4-0 victory. He originally joined the Pirates on May 28th and was put into immediate service as a batting practice pitcher. Sale pitched an exhibition game for the Pirates against a strong team from Kingston, NY on June 15th. He threw nine shutout innings, but ended up with a no decision in a game the Pirates won 2-0 in ten innings.

Five days after his lone big league game, Sale was sent to the minors, where he would pitch two seasons for the Wilson Bugs of the Class-B Virginia League before his pro baseball career was also over. The Pirates announced in September of 1924 that Sale would be retained for the 1925 season, but on December 3, 1924 he was sold to Wilson, though nine days later it was announced that he was being sent outright by the Pirates to Shreveport of the Texas League. He went 9-5, 4.04 in 136 innings over 25 games for Wilson in the second half of the 1924 season. After the season, he coached at the Georgia Military Academy, where he played before attending the University of Georgia. In March of 1925, it was reported that the Pirates sent him to Shreveport, but he never played there, remaining with Wilson instead. In 1925, he had an 11-8, 4.34 record in 170 innings over 27 games. He had a contract with Wilson for the 1926 season, and the team still expected him to play as of early April, but he never showed up to training camp. It turned out that he was unable to get away from the business he operated, which ultimately ended his career. The team had hopes of him playing in 1927 as well, but he told them in early February that he would be unable to play. During his time in Pittsburgh, he had the nickname “Chic”, and he always went by “Fred”, not the Freddy that is recognized today.

The Game

On this date in 1882, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first game in franchise history.  It was also the first game in the history of the Cincinnati Reds franchise. The Alleghenys won that day despite a one-sided pitching match-up in favor of the Red Stockings. Will White was on the mound for Cincinnati. In 1879 he set records that will never be broken, with 75 complete games and 680 innings pitched. Jack Leary was on the mound for the Alleghenys. He had a career 0-3 record at that point and actually played more games at shortstop, center field, right field and third base than he did as a pitcher in his career. He won just three games in his career including a 10-9 win over 229-game winner Will White on May 2, 1882. The Alleghenys were down 7-4 after three innings, before scoring runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take the lead. The Red Stockings added a run in the ninth, but their rally fell short.

The lineup that day for Pittsburgh was as follows:

  1. Ed Swartwood, RF
  2. Billy Taylor, 3B
  3. Jack Leary, P
  4. Mike Mansell, LF
  5. Jake Goodman, 1B
  6. John Peters, SS
  7. Charlie Morton, CF
  8. George Strief, 2B
  9. Jim Keenan, C