This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: June 5th, Jack Chesbro and a Busy Day for Draft Picks

Just three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, although one of them went on to the Hall of Fame. It has been a busy date for draft picks in team history as noted below.

The Players

Ray Rohwer, outfielder for the 1921-22 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of California on March 2, 1921. Rohwer was the school’s captain in 1920, hitting .351 with 17 stolen bases and 22 extra-base hits during the abbreviated college season. He had attended the school prior to WWI, but returned (after graduating already) in 1920 to play baseball. Despite being just months shy of his 25th birthday, Rohwer had never played pro ball before, but he made the 1921 Pirates squad. He played 30 games that rookie season, getting just three starts and only 40 at-bats. His last start that season was July 10th, and all of his final 15 games were off of the bench. He hit .250 with six runs, five extra-base hits, six RBIs and a .743 OPS. He had a bigger role during the 1922 season, playing 53 games total, 28 as a starter, with all of his starts coming in right field. A majority of his work came during a four-week stretch from mid-June to mid-July. After collecting five hits during a doubleheader on July 1st, he had a .386 average. He then batted .130 over the rest of the season. His only action after September 1st was playing in a pair of exhibition games off of the bench, including one game with his brother Claude on September 28th. For the year, he hit .295 with 19 runs, six doubles, three triples, three homers, 22 RBIs and an .807 OPS

In December of 1922, Rohwer was traded to Seattle of the Double-A Pacific Coast League, along with pitcher Sheriff Blake, in exchange for infielder Spencer Adams. He would end up playing nine seasons in the PCL before he retired, without ever returning to the majors. He played over 1,300 minor league games, hitting nearly 300 doubles and 200 homers, while finishing with a .299 batting average. Rohwer’s full stats are incomplete, but it’s known that he batted .325 with 30 doubles, 20 triples and 37 homers in 179 games for Seattle in 1923. That was followed by a .325 average again in 1924, this time with 42 doubles, 15 triples and 33 homers in 176 games. In 1925 with Portland of the PCL, he hit .334 with 44 doubles and 40 homers in 177 games. His full 1926 stats aren’t known (he’s credited with 55 extra-base hits in 168 games), but during the 1927 season with Sacramento of the PCL, Rohwer hit .334 with 32 doubles and 14 homers in 133 games. He failed to reach a .300 average after 1927 season during his final four years, all spent with Sacramento. His power numbers also dropped during this time. He best year was 1930, when offense was up all around baseball. He hit .298 with 27 doubles and 13 homers that season in 124 games. He wrapped up his career in 1931 by hitting .247 in 110 games, with 36 extra-base hits. With the Pirates, he finished with a .284 average in 83 games, with 25 runs, three homers, 28 RBIs and a .792 OPS. He was rated slightly below average defensively, leaving him with a career 0.1 WAR.

Jack Chesbro, pitcher for the Pirates from 1899 until 1902. He played five seasons in the minors leagues prior to having his contract purchased by the Pirates. Chesbro debuted at 21 years old in 1895 with Springfield of the Class-A Eastern League, where he had a 2-1 record and a 2.81 ERA in 32 innings. His online stats credit him with 22 walks and six strikeouts. The next year he moved down a level in competition, pitching for Roanoke of the Class-B Virginia League, where he went 8-11, 1.81 in 159.1 innings. That year he had 65 walks and 57 strikeouts. He joined the Richmond Bluebirds of the Class-B Atlantic League in 1897, where he was 16-18, 1.80 in 289.1 innings, improving to 48 walks and 99 strikeouts. While full stats aren’t available for 1898, it’s known that Chesbro won 23 games for Richmond. In July of 1899, Pittsburgh bought him from Richmond, where he had a 17-4 record, while throwing complete games in all 21 starts. The Atlantic League was reclassified as Class-A that year. His ERA isn’t available, but when he had that 1.80 ERA in 1897, he allowed 5.16 runs per nine innings. In 1899, he allowed just 2.91 runs per nine innings, so his ERA was likely much lower than that 1.80 mark.

Chesbro was a far cry from the Hall of Fame pitcher he eventually became during his rookie season in the majors. He went 6-9, 4.11 in 149 innings for the 1899 Pirates, recording just 28 strikeouts. He pitched 19 times, with 17 starts and 15 complete games. In the off-season he was traded to the Louisville Colonels in the major 19-player/cash trade that brought Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell, as well as many others to Pittsburgh. The move ended up being temporary for Chesbro. When the Louisville franchise folded just two months later, he was assigned back to the Pirates. The Pirates were a much stronger team in 1900 and Chesbro showed improvements, but he was still the fifth best starter on the team, and not even the only future Hall of Famer. Pittsburgh also had Waddell, an eccentric 23-year-old, who led the National League in ERA that season. Chesbro went 15-13 with a 3.67 ERA in 215.2 innings for a Pirates team that went 79-60, finishing in second place. He pitched 32 times, with 26 starts, 20 complete games and three shutouts.

Chesbro established himself as a star pitcher in 1901, helping the Pirates to their first NL title. He went 21-10, 2.38 in 287.2 innings, while throwing a league leading six shutouts along the way. He completed 26 of his 28 starts, and also pitched eight times in relief. After compiling 84 strikeouts in his first two seasons, he had 129 strikeouts that season. He was even better in 1902, as were the Pirates, who had their highest winning percentage ever that season with their 103-36 record. Chesbro went 28-6, 2.17 in 286.1 innings, completing 31 of 33 starts, while leading the league in wins, winning percentage, and his league leading eight shutouts are a franchise record during the NL years of the franchise. His 28 wins that season are still the highest total in team history since 1900. He finished seventh in the league with 136 strikeouts. That 1902 Pirates pitching staff was loaded with talent, having Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, four pitchers who would be top starters on many clubs. Their fifth starter was Ed Doheny, who went 16-4 with a 2.53 ERA.

The Pirates lost Chesbro (and Tannehill) to the American League after the 1902 season, as both jumped to the new league. Chesbro went 21-15, 2.77 in 324.2 innings in 1903 for the New York Highlanders, but the Pirates were still able to win their third straight title without his services. He completed 33 of 36 starts that season and finished ninth in the league with 147 strikeouts. He went on to have an incredible season in 1904 when he went 41-12, 1.82 in 454.2 innings. His win total is a record for the American League and the most in baseball since 1891. The innings total is the second highest since 1900. He set a career high with 239 strikeouts, which ranked second in the league to Rube Waddell. Chesbro led the league with 51 starts and he completed 48 games, while also pitching four times in relief. He threw six shutouts. He went 19-15, 2.20 in 303.1 innings in 1905. After completing all but 18 of his 191 starts during his first six seasons, he completed 24 of 38 starts in 1905, finishing with three shutouts.

Chesbro was a workhorse in 1906, going 23-17, 2.96 in 325 innings, leading the league with 49 games pitched and 42 starts. He completed 24 games. His workload dropped a bit the next year when he had a 10-10, 2.53 record in 206 innings over 25 starts and five relief appearances. He saw a large increase in his work in 1908, with 14-20, 2.93 record in 288.2 innings over 31 starts and 14 relief outings. He threw 20 complete games and the last three shutouts of his career. His final season was split between New York and the Boston Red Sox, though his time in Boston consisted of just his final big league start. He had a 6.34 ERA in 49.2 innings with the Highlanders, then gave up four runs over six innings in a loss with Boston. Chesbro was voted to the Hall of Fame in 1946, mostly because of his huge season in 1904. He had strong stats, with a 198-132, 2.68 record in 2,896.2 innings, with 260 complete games and 35 shutouts in 332 starts. However, eight of the ten most similar pitchers to him in baseball history aren’t in the Hall of Fame, including the aforementioned Jesse Tannehill and Pirates great Babe Adams.

Gene Madden, pinch-hitter for the Pirates on April 20, 1916. Madden played one game in his big league career and he was lucky to get that game. His pro career began in 1908, playing Class-D ball for Bradford of the Interstate League, where he hit .197 in 18 games. Madden next appeared in 1911 with Hattiesburg of the Class-D Cotton States League, where he hit .283 in 120 games, with 27 doubles, six triples and three homers. He moved up two levels to Galveston of the Class-B Texas League in 1912 and he hit .246 in 141 games, with 19 doubles, four triples and five homers. His stats were very similar with Galveston in 1913, batting .254 in 149 games, with 16 doubles, six triples and a homer. He then he had a solid 1914 season, batting .281 with 99 runs scored, 37 extra-base hits, 46 steals and 59 walks in 153 games. Madden played for Galveston for a fourth straight season in 1915 and batted .312 in 134 games, with 28 doubles, six triples and no homers. Despite failing to homer, his .392 slugging percentage was his highest mark in four seasons with Galveston. He was a speedy player, who played third base and outfield that season, while also seeing significant time at second base during his career. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft on September 15, 1915. Owner Barney Dreyfuss had a habit then of not announcing drafted players until they signed their contracts and Madden was the first player from that group to be announced, inking his 1916 contract on September 19th. It was mentioned by Dreyfuss at the time that he has been scouting Madden for the last three seasons before securing him.

Madden made the 1916 Pirates Opening Day roster, but didn’t get into action through seven games. The Pirates were planning on releasing him to Syracuse of the Class-B New York State League after play on April 20th and he wasn’t in the starting lineup that day. When the starting pitcher Al Mamaux got knocked around early, Madden was sent in to hit for him in the second inning. He grounded out to second base. After the game, he was assigned to Syracuse and was never recalled. The local press said that they expected Madden to rejoin the team in the fall, but he batted .232 that season in 133 games with Syracuse. The Pirates sold his contract to Birmingham of the Southern Association on September 13, 1916. He returned to Syracuse for the 1917 season and hit .232 again, this time in 117 games. Madden had a long career in the minors and also served in the military during WWI. He began playing in 1908 and retired from pro ball after the 1921 season, though some of that time was spent outside of the minor leagues in semi-pro ball. His final season was split between Newark and Syracuse of the Double-A International League, which was the highest level of play at the time. Stats are incomplete from that season, but he’s credited with a .284 average, 22 extra-base hits and 32 steals in 107 games. He was a player-manager in semi-pro ball around his home in West Virginia in 1922.

(Editor’s Note for Madden: His birth date was recently updated to June 5th from January 5th, so his bio has been moved to this date)

The Draft Picks

Here’s a list of the players the Pirates have selected in the amateur draft on June 5th throughout the years, noting that June 5th was the first day of the draft, so some of the later picks may have happened 1-2 days later.

2014: Mitch Keller, Cole Tucker, Jordan Luplow, Montana DuRapau

2012: Adrian Sampson, Jacob Stallings, Max Moroff

2008: Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague, Justin Wilson

2001: John Van Benschoten, Chris Duffy, Zach Duke, Rajai Davis, Shane Youman. Pirates also took Mark Guthrie and Steven Drew, although neither signed.

2000: Sean Burnett, Chris Young, Jose Bautista, Nate McLouth, Ian Snell

1989: Willie Greene (first round pick), Rich Aude, John Hope, Paul Wagner, Steve Cooke, Mark Johnson, Jeff McCurry (didn’t sign in 1989, but they signed him in 1990 and he made the majors five years later).

1979: Mike Bielecki (8th overall pick), Jose DeLeon, Ron Wotus. Pirates also took Joel Skinner in the 37th round, Herm Winningham in the 39th round and Mike Sharperson in the 41st round. All three didn’t sign, but they all played over 500 games in the majors.

1974: Rod Scurry (11th overall pick), Ed Whitson, Gary Hargis, Mike Edwards

1973: Steve Nicosia (24th overall pick), Mitchell Page