Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.
Phil Coke, pitcher for the 2016 Pirates. He was originally drafted out of high school in 2001 by the Florida Marlins in the 49th round. He attended San Joaquin Delta College and the New York Yankees picked him up in the 26th round in 2002. He signed as a draft-and-follow player, inking his deal in late May of 2013. Coke went to the Gulf Coast League his first year and had a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings. In 2004, he pitched just 19.1 innings, mostly back in the GCL, though he also pitched two levels higher in the New York-Penn League with Staten Island. He combined for a 5.12 ERA and 20 strikeouts. In 2005, he was in Low-A with Charleston of the South Atlantic League for the entire year, going 8-11, 5.42 in 103 innings, making 18 starts and six relief appearances. The 2006 season was split between a brief successful stint back in Charleston (one run in 17 innings), and High-A, where he had a 3.60 ERA in 110 innings in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League with Tampa. He had 107 strikeouts in 127 innings for the year. Coke spent the entire 2007 season back in Tampa, going 7-3, 3.09 in 99 innings over 16 starts and a relief appearance. He was a starter in Double-A in 2008, going 9-4, 2.51 in 118.1 innings for Trenton of the Eastern League. That led to a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League, where he pitched in relief, posting a 4.67 ERA in 17.1 innings over 14 appearances (one start). The Yankees called him up in September and he did great, allowing one run in 14.2 innings. In 2009, he made 72 appearances in relief for the Yankees, going 4-3, 4.50 in 60 innings. He had five scoreless appearances in the playoffs that year before allowing two runs in his final game, but the Yankees still won the title.
In December of 2009, Coke was part of a large three-team trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers. For Detroit in 2010, he had a 7-5, 3.76 record in 64.2 innings over 74 appearances (one start). He became a starter for part of 2011, making 14 starts and 34 relief appearances that season. He had a 3-9, 4.47 record in a career high 108.2 innings. In 2012, Coke pitched strictly in relief, posting a 4.00 ERA in 54 innings over 66 appearances. He struggled in 2013, with an 0-5, 5.40 record in 38.1 innings over 49 games. He bounced back a bit in 2014, going 5-2, 3.88 in 62 games and 58 innings. He picked up at least one save in six straight season from 2009-14, but he collected a total of eight saves during that time. He became a free agent after the season and had a wild 2015 that saw him get released by the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s between May and August. He had a 5.68 ERA in 18 appearances that season in the majors, and he pitched 20 minor league games spread over three teams. After playing winter ball in the Dominican, Coke signed with the Atlanta Braves for 2016, but he was released after 17 days of Spring Training. He pitched one game in independent ball, then signed with the Yankees a month later and spent most of the year back in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, working in relief and a starting tole. He pitched six innings over three outings with the Yankees and he allowed five runs.
The Pirates needed pitching at the end of 2016 and they picked up Coke from Yankees in a purchase deal for $1. The cost was that low because his season ended a week earlier in the minors and the Yankees had no intentions of calling him up to the majors. Since there has to be an actual transaction to switch teams, the deal was for the lowest amount allowed by MLB. Coke joined the Pirates on September 22, 2016 and pitched three games in relief, tossing four shutout innings. It ended up being his last big league experience. He pitched in Japan in 2017 and Mexico in 2018 before retiring with 16 seasons of pro ball and a total of 599 appearances. Coke spent parts of nine seasons in the majors, going 22-27, 4.19 in 421 innings, with 15 starts and 392 relief appearances.
Ernesto Frieri, pitcher for the 2014 Pirates. He signed with the San Diego Padres as an amateur free agent out of Colombia in January of 2003 at 17 years old. He played in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2003 and the Dominican Summer League in 2004 (no stats available for those leagues), before making his debut in the U.S. in 2005. Frieri had a 1.17 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 46.1 innings in the Arizona Rookie League in 2005 before getting a late promotion to High-A to finish the season, where he allowed one run in 3.1 innings for Lake Elsinore of the California League. In 2006, he spent most of the year with Eugene in the short-season Northwestern League, where he had a 3.82 ERA in 37.2 innings. He also saw time with Fort Wayne of the Midwest League and Lake Elsinore, though he gave up eight runs over seven innings with those two teams. The 2007 season was split between Fort Wayne (40 games) and Lake Elsinore (13 games). He combined for a 2.29 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 86.1 innings. In 2008, Frieri had an 8-6, 4.00 record in Lake Elsinore, where he had 108 strikeouts in 123.2 innings over 18 starts and 15 relief appearances. He made very brief stops in Double-A (San Antonio of the Texas League) and Triple-A (Portland of the Pacific Coast League) that season, combining for six runs and 17 strikeouts in 17 innings. He spent the 2009 season in San Antonio, where he went 10-9, 3.59, with 118 strikeouts in 140.1 innings over 26 starts and one relief appearance. Frieri debuted in the majors late that season, with two shutout innings over two relief appearances for the Padres.
Frieri spent the majority of the 2010 season in Portland, where he had a 1.43 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 37.2 innings over 34 appearances, with 17 saves. He pitched equally as well with the Padres that year, posting a 1.71 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 31.2 innings over 33 games. In 59 games with the 2011 Padres, he had a 2.71 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 63 innings. Frieri got off to a strong start in 2012, putting up a 2.31 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 11.2 innings, before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in early May. He was put in the closer role and finished the season with a 5-2, 2.32 record, with 23 saves and 98 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched over 67 appearances. In 2013, he saved 37 games, seventh most in the league. He had a 3.80 ERA in 68.2 innings, once again striking out 98 batters.
Frieri was acquired mid-season 2014 by the Pirates in exchange for reliever Jason Grilli. Both pitchers were struggling with their old teams before the deal. Frieri had 11 saves, but it came with a 6.39 ERA in 31 innings. After the trade, Grilli did better with the Angels, while Frieri did much worse with the Pirates and was gone after just 14 appearances. He posted a 10.13 ERA in 10.2 innings. After being released by the Pirates, Frieri spent time with six different clubs, though most of that time was spent in the minors. He pitched just 28 games total in the majors over his last three years, with his last appearance coming in 2017. He had a 4.63 ERA in 22 games for the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays, then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2016. He was released by the Phillies on April 6, 2016, and didn’t pitch again until winter ball in Venezuela over the 2016-17 off-season. In 2017, he spent time in the minors with the New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. He appeared in his final six big league games with the Rangers that season, giving up four runs in seven innings. He finished his career by playing winter ball and summer ball in Mexico, from late 2017 through the 2018-19 winter season. In his eight-year big league career, Frieri had an 11-14, 3.59 record in 303.1 innings over 304 appearances (all in relief), with 73 saves.
Brian Smith, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was drafted out of college by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1994, taken in the 27th round out of UNC Wilmington. He had a 3.38 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 64 innings for Medicine Hat of the short-season Pioneer League in his pro debut. He made five starts, 15 relief appearances, and he had four saves. Smith moved up to Low-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League in 1995 and had an incredible season in relief, posting a 9-1, 0.87 record in 104 innings, with 101 strikeouts and 21 saves in 47 appearances. He skipped to Double-A Knoxville of the Southern League for 1996 and had a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 innings over 54 games, with 16 saves. He moved to a starting role in Triple-A in 1997, going 7-11, 5.33 in 138.1 innings over 21 starts and ten relief appearances for Syracuse of the International League. Smith switched back to relief in 1998 and spent most of the season in Knoxville, where he went 4-2, 4.06 over 71 innings, with seven saves in 42 appearances. The 1999 season was split evenly between Knoxville and Syracuse, pitching 29 games at each level. Combined that season, he had an 8-7, 4.20 record, 20 saves and 73 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, with better results at the higher level.
The Pirates picked up Smith as a Rule 5 draft pick in December of 1999, but he was soon diagnosed with a torn rotator and torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. After surgery and an impressively quick recovery time, Smith was back on the mound for five appearances in the Gulf Coast League, before joining Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League in the middle of the 2000 season. After posting an 0.81 ERA and 12 saves in 27 minor league appearances between the two spots, the Pirates made him a September call-up. He was strong in his first outing, throwing a shutout inning with two strikeouts. He ran into trouble in his other two games, giving up five earned runs over 3.1 innings of work. Smith was released after the season, though he re-signed with the Pirates on a minor league deal. He spent the two seasons in the Pirates farm system, mostly at Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, where he went 1-2, 3.69 with 11 saves in 39 innings in 2001, followed by a 3-3, 3.82 record and seven saves in 37.2 innings in 2002. He finished up his career with the Colorado Rockies Triple-A team (Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League) and an independent team (Nashua of the Atlantic League) in 2003, never making it back to the big leagues. Smith gave up 16 runs in 10.1 innings with Colorado Springs, before going 7-8, 3.14 in 106 innings with Nashua. He finished up his pro career with exactly 100 saves.
Vicente Palacios, pitcher for the 1987-88 and 1990-92 Pirates. He was originally signed out of the Mexican League by the Chicago White Sox in 1984, spending two seasons in their minor league system before being released. He debuted in his home country of Mexico in 1983 before joining Chicago. At 19 years old in that 1983 season, he had a 12-6 record and he threw 165.1 innings. He started the 1984 season in Mexico and had a 7-8, 3.52 record in 128 innings before joining Glen Falls of the Double-A Eastern League to finish the season. He went 1-2, 2.49 in 25.1 innings over five starts after joining the White Sox system. In 1985, he made four starts and four relief appearances for Glen Falls, posting a 4.76 ERA in 39.2 innings. The rest of the year was spent back on loan to a team in Mexico, where he went 7-2, 3.87 for the Mexico City Reds. Palacios spent the entire 1986 season in Mexico, posting a 5-14, 4.41 record. He was released by the White Sox on November 20, 1986. The Pirates quickly signed him two weeks later, only to lose him in the 1986 Rule 5 draft to the Milwaukee Brewers four days later. The Pirates were able to get him back at the end of Spring Training in 1987 when he didn’t make the Brewers Opening Day roster.
During his first five years with the Pirates, Palacios bounced between Triple-A and the majors, twice missing significant time due to shoulder surgery. He went 13-5, 2.58 in 185 innings at Triple-A Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League in his first season with the Pirates. He debuted in the majors in September of 1987, making four starts and two relief appearances. He had a 4.30 ERA in 29.1 innings. He pitched a total of 12 times in 1988, posting a 1.99 ERA in Triple-A (Buffalo of the American Association) and a 6.66 mark in 24.1 innings with the Pirates at the beginning of the season. Palacios had shoulder surgery in late August. He was dropped from the 40-man roster after the season. His 1989 season was limited to two games for Buffalo in mid-June, then shoulder surgery ended his season in July. In 1990, Palacios went 13-7, 3.43 in 183.2 innings over 28 starts for Buffalo. He moved to a relief role when he joined the Pirates in September and threw 15 scoreless innings over seven appearances. After pitching 20 total games for the Pirates from 1987 until 1990, Palacios found a bigger role with the 1991 team, although he was still sent back to the minors at one point, where he made three appearances with Buffalo. He went 6-3, 3.75 in 81.2 innings over seven starts and 29 relief appearances for the Pirates. He pitched well for the team in late September that year and was expected to be a key piece for the 1992 team. That year he made eight starts at 12 relief appearances, going 3-2, 4.25 in 53 innings before being placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 19th. He said he had no pain of any kind, but his velocity had dropped in his last few outings. He eventually had minor shoulder surgery in July. He never returned from the disabled list and was released following the season, returning to Mexico to pitch during the 1993 season.
Palacios returned to the majors in 1994 with the St Louis Cardinals, making 17 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 3-8, 4.44 in 117.2 innings during the strike-shortened season. In 1995 he went 2-3, 5.80 in 40.1 innings over five starts and 15 relief appearances for the Cardinals. He pitched back in Mexico from 1996 through 1999, when he spent part of that latter season in Triple-A Norfolk of the International League with the New York Mets. Palacios split the 2000 season between Triple-A for the Chicago Cubs (Iowa of the Pacific Coast League) and San Diego Padres (Las Vegas of the PCL), while returning to the majors for the final time to make seven relief appearances for the Padres. He gave up ten runs in 10.2 innings during that final stint. He spent the 2001-03 seasons in Mexico before retiring. He pitched 76 games for the Pirates, 22 as a starter, going 12-8, 4.03 with six saves in 203.1 innings. Palacios pitched a total of 134 big league games, going 17-20, 4.43 in 372 innings. Despite pitching for three straight playoff teams with the Pirates, he did not appear in a single postseason game.
Nick Koback, catcher for the Pirates from 1953 until 1955. He was a highly sought after player out of high school in 1953, who decided to sign with the Pirates after they offered him the highest bonus (reportedly $20,000) and a chance to play right away in the majors. At the time, if a player signed over a certain amount ($4,000), they had to stay on the Major League roster for two full seasons before being sent to the minors, a stipulation known as the “Bonus Baby” rule. He signed with the Pirates on July 9, 1953 (just ten days before his 18th birthday), and he was sent outright to the minor leagues exactly two years later. He was the fourth Bonus Baby player on the Pirates at the time, joining twin infielders John & Eddie O’Brien and Vic Janowicz, who was also a catcher. In between his start and finish with the Pirates, Koback played just 16 Major League games, with 36 total plate appearances. He had four hits (one triple) and he scored one run without collecting an RBI during his three seasons. He started eight games behind the plate and caught another four off of the bench. He played seven games in 1953, debuting in the majors ten days after his 18th birthday, making him one of the youngest players in team history. In 1954 he played just four games all season and he went 0-for-10 at the plate with eight strikeouts. He came off of the bench twice in blowout games in July, then started two games in late September.
By the time Koback’s final day with the Pirates rolled around, they had five Bonus Baby players on the team, not including Janowicz, who already served his two years. Koback played five games for the Pirates over the first three months of the 1955 season. He made his only start on June 5th in the second game of a doubleheader, after finishing off the first game behind the plate for two innings. He finished the 1955 season with Lincoln of the Class-A Western League. That was a farm team of the Pirates, though he was dropped from the Pirates roster so he technically wasn’t property of the team anymore. The Pirates would have had first shot at adding him back if he showed anything during that time. Koback finally got to play regularly for the first time since high school, and he hit .223 with 11 runs, seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in 38 games for Lincoln. He ended up playing minor league ball until 1960 without a return trip to the majors. He played for three affiliates of the Pirates in 1956, seeing time with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League, New Orleans of the Double-A Southern League, and a majority of the time was spent in Class-A with Williamsport of the Eastern League. He combined to hit .288 that season in 83 games, with 16 doubles and two homers. In 1957, he saw time with Hollywood, hitting .167 in 11 games, but the majority of the year was spent with Mobile of the Southern Association, which was not an affiliate of the Pirates. He hit .217 in 52 games that year, with seven extra-base hits (all doubles).
Koback was back in Lincoln in 1958, where he hit .240 with 11 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 68 games. He spent 1959 with Columbus/Gastonia of the Class-A South Atlantic League, which was a Pirates affiliate. He hit .226 in 50 games, matching his 1958 numbers with 11 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. His final season (1960) was brief, and spent with Charleston of the Triple-A American Association, where he played five games. Most of his time in the majors with the Pirates was spent as the bullpen catcher. Despite the large bonus at 18 year old, as well as collecting a big league salary, he worked as a jewelry store clerk during the 1953-54 off-season. His had the interesting first/middle name combo of Nicholas Nicholie.
Earl Hamilton, lefty pitcher for the 1918-23 Pirates. He began playing minor league ball at age 17 and was in the majors with the St Louis Browns two years later. His two minor league seasons were spent in the Class-C Western Association, where he had a 13-9 record (ERA unavailable) in 181 innings in 1909 for Springfield, followed by a 19-8 record in 288 innings for Joplin. At age 19, he made 17 starts and 15 relief appearances for the 1911 Browns, going 5-12, 3.97 in 177 innings. The next year he made 26 starts and 15 relief outings, going 11-14, 3.24 in 249.2 innings, with 17 complete games. On August 30th, he pitched a no-hitter in which he failed to collect a strikeout, the first time that happened in baseball history. Ironically, he also set a career high with 139 strikeouts that season (sixth most in the American League), 28 more than he recorded in any other season. Hamilton continued to improve in 1913, going 13-12, 2.57 in 217.1 innings, for a team that finished with a 57-96 record. He made 24 starts and seven relief appearances, finishing with 19 complete games and three shutouts. He set career highs for wins (16), starts (35), complete games (20), innings pitched (302.1) and shutouts (five), while posting a career best 2.50 ERA during the 1914 season. However, he was with a fifth place team and he led the Browns with 18 losses. He had 111 strikeouts that season, his third straight season with 100+ strikeouts, but it was the last time in his 14-year career he reached the century mark.
The Browns were worse in 1915 and Hamilton’s record suffered, going 9-17, 2.87 in 204 innings spread over 28 starts and seven relief appearances. He spent five full seasons in St Louis before being sold to the Detroit Tigers after one start in the 1916 season. The Browns got him back after just five starts and he finished the season with 6-9, 3.12 record in 132.2 innings spread over 17 starts and 11 relief appearances between both stops. Prior to the Pirates acquiring him in 1918, Hamilton went 0-9, 3.14 in 83 innings for St Louis during the 1917 season. He spent the latter part of the season in the minors with Columbus of the Double-A American Association, where he had a 2-3 record in six games. On January 11, 1918, the Pirates worked out a deal with Columbus that they would take Hamilton to Spring Training on a trial basis and if he made the team, they would hand over some surplus talent to Columbus.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, Hamilton turned that 1917 record around, going from 0-9 to a 6-0 record in 1918, posting an 0.83 ERA in 54 innings. He made six early season starts and completed all six games, one being a shutout. He made his final start on May 10th, then left that same night to join the Navy during WWI. He was back with the team by the starting of Spring Training in 1919. For the next five years with the Pirates, he was used in both a starting and relief role, getting 101 starts and 62 appearances out of the bullpen. Hamilton was a consistent pitcher, keeping his ERA between 3.24 and 3.99 each season during that span, throwing a minimum of 141 inning each year. The Pirates were over .500 all five years and the last three they placed among the top of the division, but Hamilton had just one winning season.
Hamilton went 8-11, 3.31 in 160.1 innings over 19 starts and nine relief outings in 1919. He was 10-13, 3.24 in 230.1 innings in 1920, making 23 starts and 16 relief appearances. In 1921, he was 13-15, 3.26 in 225 innings, with 30 starts and five relief outings. In 1922 he went 11-7, finally putting together a winning record, despite his highest ERA (3.99) while with the Pirates. He pitched 160 innings that year over 14 starts and 19 relief outings. He pitched 141 innings during the 1923 season, his last in Pittsburgh. He went 7-9, 3.77 in 15 starts and 13 relief appearances that year. Hamilton finished his 14-year career with the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies, after they picked him up off waivers from the Pirates during the previous December. The Pirates cut ties with him at the perfect time. He gave up nine runs over six innings in three relief appearances with the Phillies before being shuffled off to the minors, where he played regularly through 1927, then played parts of two seasons (1933, 1936) after that point. His did not pitch well in the minors during the 1924-25 and 1927 seasons, but in 1926 with Los Angeles of the Double-A Pacific Coast League (highest level of the minors at the time), he went 24-8, 2.48 in 279 innings. His ERA was more than double the next year, and he had a 7-16 record. For the Pirates, he went 55-55, 3.35, throwing 970.2 innings over 107 starts and 62 relief appearances. In his Major League career, he went 115-147, 3.16 in 2,342.2 innings. Hamilton had 262 starts, 148 relief appearances, 140 complete games, 16 shutouts and 13 saves. While he had a solid walk rate, he finished with 773 walks and 790 strikeouts.
Ed Sweeney, catcher for the 1919 Pirates. He spent eight years catching for the New York Yankees/Highlanders from 1908 until 1915, playing 627 games. Twice he led American League catchers in errors and two times he threw out more runners than any other AL catcher. He debuted in pro ball at 16 years old in 1905, playing two seasons for Columbia of the Class-C South Atlantic League. His stats are limited from that time, but they show a .205 average in 58 games in 1905, followed by a .229 average in 85 games in 1906. At 18 years old in 1907, he played with Atlanta of the Class-A Southern Association (highest level of the minors at the time), where he hit .226 in 66 games. That’s all it took before he became a full-time big leaguer for the next eight seasons. Sweeney hit just .146/.195/.171 in 32 games during his rookie season with the Highlanders in 1908 (The Yankees name was used earlier than 1908, but record books go with it starting in 1913). In 1909, he batted .267 in 67 games, with 18 runs and 21 RBIs. In those first two seasons, he had a total of five extra-base hits and they were all doubles. In 1910, he had a .527 OPS in 78 games, hitting .200 with 25 runs, four doubles, four triples, 13 RBIs and 17 walks. In 1911, Sweeney batted .231 in 83 games, this time posting a .600 OPS. He had 17 runs, 11 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs.
The 1912-13 seasons were Sweeney’s best in the majors. He hit a career best .268 in 1912, also setting highs with 12 doubles and 37 runs scored in 110 games. His .633 OPS and 30 RBIs were both career bests to that point. He played a career high 117 games in 1913, batting .265 with ten doubles, two triples and his first two big league homers. He set personal highs with 40 RBIs, a .670 OPS and 37 walks. Sweeney’s numbers dipped in 1914, with a .213 average and ten extra-base hits in 87 games, though he stole 19 bases (career high) and drew 35 walks. He had a .580 OPS that year. His numbers dropped even more in 1915 and he played just 53 games, hitting .190 with 12 runs, two doubles, five RBIs and a .523 OPS. Sweeney spent the 1916-17 in the minors with Toledo of the Double-A American Association (highest level of the minors at the time), where he batted .260 with 21 doubles, one triple and two homers in 243 games. He was out of baseball in 1918, serving in the military during WWI.
The Pirates acquired Sweeney on March 21, 1919 from Toledo in exchange for infielder Gus Getz and an undisclosed amount of money. Sweeney was the backup catcher to Walter Schmidt in 1919, seeing very little time until Schmidt got hurt in May and missed three weeks. Sweeney became the everyday catcher for a short time, playing a total of 17 games for the Pirates. His hitting was poor, batting .095 with no RBIs, but his defense kept him in the lineup until just before Schmidt returned. The Pirates began using rookie catcher Cliff Lee, and then had their backup since 1917 (Fred Blackwell) rejoin the team, leaving no spot for Sweeney once Schmidt came back. Sweeney was released on August 8th, in what was called a money-saving move. He then went to play in the minors for Seattle of the Double-A Pacific Coast League for the rest of the season, hitting .279 with four doubles in 50 games. He finished his career in 1920, playing for Kansas City of the American Association, where he put up strong numbers, batting .293 in 130 games, with 16 doubles and two triples. He was previously known by the nickname “Jeff”, but he went by Ed Sweeney during his time in Pittsburgh and his records have been updated online to reflect that fact. He hit three homers in the majors and two were off of Hall of Fame pitchers, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank. His final career totals in 644 games shows a .232 average, with 173 runs, 48 doubles, 13 triples, 151 RBIs and 63 steals. He had 181 walks and 182 strikeouts.
Bill Hart, pitcher for the Pirates in 1895 and 1898. He had a long career in pro baseball, spanning 26 years and four different decades. While he won over 300 games in his pro career, his Major League record wasn’t one to write home about. Some sources credit him with 251 minor league wins between 1885 and 1910, but his major league record over eight seasons stood at just 66-120 when he was done, with a below .500 winning percentage each year. Hart debuted in pro ball at 19 years old in 1885 and it was a sign of things to come. Despite a 1.37 ERA in 341.2 innings, he had a 13-26 record. He pitched part of that season with Chattanooga of the Southern League (also played for Memphis in the same league), which was an independent league at the time. Chattanooga was in the Southern Association in 1886, which was considered to be Class-B ball. He went 11-16, 2.09 in 240.2 innings before joining the Philadelphia Athletics in late July. He went 9-13, 3.19 during his first season in the majors, adding another 186 innings to his already high total for the season. He lasted just three starts in 1887 with the Athletics, going 1-2, 4.50 in 26 innings, then spent the rest of the season with Lincoln of the Western League, where his win/loss record took a significant turn. He went 28-6, 4.30 in 293 innings with Lincoln in 1887. He pitched for Buffalo of the International Association in 1888 and had a 7-11, 3.75 record in 161 innings, then joined Des Moines of the Western Association in 1889, where he had a 17-23, 2.72 record in 337 innings. He remained there in 1890 (stats aren’t available for the season), then had a 25-20, 1.47 record in 397.1 innings for Sioux City of the Western Association in 1891. That performance led to his next big league shot.
In 1892, Hart went 9-12, 3.28 in 195 innings over 23 starts and five relief appearances for the Brooklyn Grooms of the National League. An arm injury kept him out for the 1893 season. From there it was back to the minors, where another big season in a familiar spot got him back to the majors. In 1894, he went 28-15, 3.71 in 398.1 innings for Sioux City, completing 41 of his 45 starts. In Mid-September of 1894, the Pirates purchased Hart’s contract for the following season, along with the contract of Sioux City teammate Frank Genins. Hart pitched regularly throughout the year for the 1895 Pirates, making 29 starts and seven relief appearances. He went 14-17, 4.75 in 261.2 innings, with 24 complete games. He had 135 walks and 85 strikeouts. Following the season, he was traded to the St Louis Browns, along with a cash payment and shortstop Monte Cross for shortstop Bones Ely. Hart pitched often for St Louis with almost no success, going 21-56, 5.65 in 630.2 innings in his two seasons. He led the league with 29 losses in 1896, then had 27 losses and a 6.26 ERA in 294.2 innings in 1897. He returned to the Pirates in 1898 in exchange for pitcher Jim Hughey and cash. For as bad as Hart was in the majors, Hughey was even worse, going 29-80 over seven seasons.
Hart went 5-9, 4.82 in 125 innings over 16 games (15 starts) for the 1898 Pirates, with 12 of those starts coming from the middle of August until the end of the season. He was then traded to Milwaukee of the Class-A Western League in exchange for Ginger Beaumont, who went on to become a star center fielder for the Pirates for eight seasons. He played for Milwaukee and Minneapolis (also of the Western League) in 1899, then spent the 1900 season with the Cleveland Lake Shores of the American League, which was a Class-A level at the time, the highest level of the minors. Hart finished his Major League career with the Cleveland Blues in 1901, during the first season of the American League being recognized as a Major League. That year he went 7-11, 3.77 in 157.2 innings. While his big league career was over by 35 years old in 1901, he played until 1910 in the minors, spending three of those seasons with Little Rock of the Southern Association, before finishing his career back in Chattanooga. He also spent two years with Peoria of the Western League (1902-03), one season each in the Class-A American Association with Kansas City (1904), Columbus (1905) and Indianapolis (1906). Hart’s final big league record was 66-120, 4.65 in 1,582 innings over 190 starts and 16 relief appearances. He completed 162 games and he had five shutouts and three saves. He finished with 704 walks and 431 strikeouts. His total of 295 wins in pro ball doesn’t include numbers from 1893, 1899 and 1904, which are not available. We wrote a full article on Hart here, which also include plenty on the aforementioned Jim Hughey as well.
Jim Donnelly, third baseman for the 1897 Pirates. He was a light-hitting third baseman for eight years in the majors (1884-91) before spending four straight years in the minors. When he returned to the big leagues in 1896, he put up big numbers, which led to him being a key acquisition of the Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1884 at 18 years old. He hit just .192 in the minors for Terre Haute, but ended up in the majors by the end of the season and did better at the plate. He batted .254/.301/.299 in 40 games for Indianapolis of the American Association. He remained in Indianapolis for part of 1885, batting .211 in 32 games in the Western League. He spent the other part of the 1885 season playing for Detroit of the National League, where once again he did better in the majors, hitting .232 in 56 games, with 24 runs, eight extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. Donnelly was a starting third baseman for the next three years in the National League, spending the 1886 season with the Kansas City Cowboys, where he had a .201 average, 51 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs and a .501 OPS in 113 games. He moved on to the Washington Nationals for the next two years, where he played a total of 239 games and had a .491 OPS in 1887 and a .482 mark in 1888. He showed remarkable consistency with his batting average during that time, even if the numbers were unremarkable. After hitting .201 in 1886, he hit .200 in 1887 and .201 in 1888.
Donnelly’s big league time in 1889 amounted to four games with Washington, kicking off a string of three straight years with limited time in the majors. He spent the rest of the 1889 season with Detroit of the International League, a top minor league at the time, where he batted .285 with 85 runs, 22 doubles and 64 steals in 89 games. He played just 11 games for the St Louis Browns of the American Association in 1890, despite that year being watered down in the majors due to three leagues running at the same time. He did well however, with a .333 average and 11 runs scored in those 11 games. The rest of his limited year was spent with Detroit in the International Association, where he hit .259 in 16 games. Donnelly then played 17 games for Columbus of the American Association in 1891, hitting .241 with nine RBIs, seven steals and 13 walks. He was with Omaha of the Western Association for the rest of the year, hitting .268 in 58 games. Donnelly was a .213 career hitter in the majors at that time, with two homers in 480 games. The next four years were spent in the Eastern League, where he played for New Haven and Buffalo in 1892, Troy in 1893, Troy and Springfield in 1894, and Springfield in 1895. Stats are limited for those years, but they show a .334 average in 101 games for Troy in 1893, and a .305 average in 93 games for Springfield in 1895.
Donnelly came back to the majors in 1896 and suddenly found his hitting stroke, batting .328 in 106 games for the Baltimore Orioles, finishing with 70 runs, 14 doubles, ten triples, 71 RBIs and 38 steals. Shortly after the season ended, the Pirates acquired Donnelly, along with Steve Brodie, who was a defensive star in center field. Pittsburgh gave up their all-time leader in batting average, Jake Stenzel, along with three minor league players, to get the two Baltimore players. While he played great defensively in Pittsburgh, Donnelly resorted back to his old ways on offense, batting .193/.270/.217 over 44 games. It was said that he didn’t want to play in Pittsburgh and they had troubles with him from the start, signing late and leaving the team at one point for a short time. In late June there were trade rumors with the Philadelphia Phillies, and in mid-July, there was a report that he was being trade to the Brooklyn Grooms for infielder George Shoch, but nothing ever came from either report. The Pirates released him to the New York Giants on July 28th, where he hit .188/.266/.224 in 23 games. His Major League career was nearly over at that point. He played one game in May of 1898 for the St Louis Browns (then in the National League) before finishing his playing days in the minors four years later, though his playing time during the 1899-1902 seasons shows that he received minimal work each year, including four games to his credit in 1899. At one point, he was playing in the Class-F Connecticut State League, five steps below the majors. His final big league stats in 11 seasons show a .230 average in 654 games, with 322 runs, 56 doubles, 28 triples, two homers, 237 RBIs and 173 steals. Those last two numbers are incomplete, as steal numbers aren’t available for 1884-85 and RBIs aren’t available for 1884. Modern metrics credit him with just 1.1 dWAR, but his hands (gloves came along later in his career) are what kept him in the majors.