Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date. There’s also one trade to talk about and one Opening Day to mention. We start with one of the all-time greats in team history.
Paul Waner, outfielder for the 1926-1940 Pirates. If the Pirates ever created a Mount Rushmore for players, Waner has a strong case to be included there. He retired with a .333 career average, 1,627 runs scored, 3,152 hits, 1,091 base on balls and 1,377 RBIs. With the Pirates, he ranks first all-time in batting average with a .340 mark (Jake Stenzel hit .360, but had less than 2,000 PAs). He also ranks first in doubles with 558 (career he ranks 11th all-time). He is sixth in games played, second to Honus Wagner in both runs scored and triples, third in hits and walks, and fifth in RBIs. When he left the Pirates, he was the team’s all-time leader in home runs. Among all Major League right fielders, he is first in putouts, fourth in assists and second in games played. He holds the Pirates single season record with 237 hits. He’s also tops on the doubles list with 62, and he’s first in RBIs with 131. He has five of the top ten single season batting averages in team history, four of the top ten in hits, and two of the top ten seasons in runs scored. He led the National League in games played three times, runs twice, hits twice, doubles twice, triples twice, RBIs once and he won three batting crowns. He was the NL MVP in 1927, and he finished second in the voting in 1934. Waner batted .333 during the 1927 World Series. He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952, then was joined there by his brother Lloyd in 1967, although Paul had passed away two years earlier. The Pirates retired his jersey number 11 in 2007. The Waner brothers combined for 5,611 hits. They are one of 26 groups of relatives in team history.
Waner debuted in pro ball at 20 years old in 1923. He spent his first three seasons playing for San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. He was probably big league ready after his first season when he hit .369 in 112 games, with 30 doubles, four triples and three homers. He batted .356 the next year, while collecting 46 doubles, five triples and eight homers. His best was still ahead. During the 1925 season, Waner put up a .401 average, along with 75 doubles (also had seven triples and 11 homers) and 280 hits in 174 games. Pirates scout Joe Devine recommended that the Pirates acquire Waner, which they did on October 12, 1925. At the same time, they also received infielder Hal Rhyne, with the reported price for both being $100,000 and three players. Waner made an easy transition to the majors as a rookie, hitting .336 that first year, with 101 runs scored, 35 doubles, 79 RBIs, 66 walks and a league leading/career high 22 triples, helping him to a .941 OPS. He finished 12th in the MVP voting that season. He was even better the next year, when he helped the Pirates to the 1927 World Series. He led the league with a .380 average, 342 total bases, 237 hits, 131 RBIs and 18 triples. He also added 114 runs scored and 42 doubles, leading to a .986 OPS. Those RBI and hit totals are single-season Pirates records. All of that led to an MVP award. That was the first MVP award in team history, and the only one a Pirates player won prior to the 1960 season. We posted a detailed recap of his 1927 season here.
Waner led the league with 142 runs scored and 50 doubles in 1928. He also added a .370 average, 223 hits, 77 walks, 19 triples and 86 RBIs. His .992 OPS this season was the best of his career, six points higher than his MVP season. Despite those strong stats, he finished just 15th in the MVP voting. The Pirates had his cousin Travea with the team during Spring Training in 1928, but the third Waner was unable to stick with the big league club. Paul Waner batted .336 in 1929, with 131 runs, 100 RBIs, 89 walks and a .958 OPS. He had 43 doubles, 15 triples and a career high 15 homers. Offense was up all around baseball in 1930. Waner put up a .368 average and 115 runs scored, along with his fourth straight 200+ hit season. He had 58 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs, 57 walks and he set a career high with 18 stolen bases. His 1931 season looks like a down year compared to the surrounding seasons, though offense dropped all around baseball. He still hit .322 that year, while scoring 88 runs. That was the only time he didn’t reach 90 runs in a season during his first 12 years in the majors. He also had 51 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs and 73 walks, leading to an .857 OPS. Waner finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1932, after setting a Pirates record with 62 doubles. He hit .341 that year, with 215 hits, 107 runs scored and 82 RBIs and a .906 OPS. His 80 extra-base hits that year are a career high, and the sixth best mark in team history, just ten behind the record held by Willie Stargell. Waner finished fourth in the MVP voting that year.
Waner was an All-Star for the first time in 1933 (first year of the All-Star game), when he had a .309 average, with 101 runs, 38 doubles, 16 triples, 70 RBIs, 60 walks and an .828 OPS. He led the league with 154 games played for the second straight season. He had an outstanding second All-Star campaign in 1934, led by winning his second batting title with a .362 average. He also led the league with 122 runs scored and 217 hits. Waner finished with 32 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homers, 90 RBIs, 68 walks and a .968 OPS. Those strong stats led to a second place finish in the MVP voting. The 1935 season saw Waner make his third straight All-Star appearance. He batted .321 in 139 games, with 98 runs, 29 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers, 78 RBIs, 61 walks and an .869 OPS. He received mild MVP support that year, finishing 24th in the voting. He had his best season according to WAR in 1936 (7.1 WAR) when he won his third batting title with a .373 average. Waner had 218 hits, 107 runs, 53 doubles, 94 RBIs, 74 walks and a .965 OPS. He didn’t make the All-Star team that year, though he did finish fifth in the MVP voting.
While he played until 1945, Waner had one final big season left in 1937 before his stats slipped to mere mortal numbers. He hit .354 that year, with 219 hits, 94 runs, 43 extra-base hits, 74 RBIs, 63 walks and an .855 OPS. He was an All-Star for a final time this season, and he received MVP support for the last time, ending up with a strong eighth place finish. He still provided positive value in each of the next seven seasons (he batted once in 1945), but he was far from the superstar player. Waner hit .280 in 1938, with 77 runs scored, 31 doubles, 69 RBIs and a .709 OPS in 148 games. This was the last season that he was an everyday player, though the lower game totals were a combo of injuries and performance slipping after this year. He had a solid season in 1939, which gets lost due to the lower game totals. He was a .328 hitter in 125 games that year, with 62 runs, 39 extra-base hits, 45 RBIs and an .813 OPS. He was benched in late June that year, then didn’t start again until August 2nd, due to a slump at the plate. He was hitting .291 at the time, so that seems to have been a quick decision with no regard to prior performance. It probably helped him though, as once he started playing again, he had an .881 OPS in his final 63 games.
Waner batted .290 over 89 games in 1940, finishing with a .731 OPS that was 29 points over league average. He had 32 runs, 18 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs that year. He was released by the Pirates after the season, then signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. His stay in Brooklyn was over in May when he was released after putting up a .497 OPS in 11 games, but he quickly signed with the Boston Braves. Waner hit .267 in 106 games that season, with 45 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs, 55 walks and a .701 OPS. He hit .258 in 114 games with the Braves during the 1942 season. Thanks to his 62 walks, he finished with a strong .376 OBP that year. He had 43 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs and a .701 OPS. He got released in January of 1943, then quickly signed back with Brooklyn, where he had a fine season in a part-time role, putting up a .311 average and an .802 OPS in 82 games. He had 29 runs, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and 35 walks. He hit .287/.405/.331 through 83 games in 1944 (mostly as a bench player), before being released on September 1st. He signed with the New York Yankees that same day, where he took up a pinch-hitting role. Waner went 1-for-7 with two walks to finish out the season. He batted once in 1945, drawing a walk, before being released in early May when he retired. His pro career ended the next year in the minors at age 43 when he hit .325 in 63 games for Miami of the Class-C Florida International League. Waner was an incredible contact hitter during his career, not quite on the level of his brother, who was one of the toughest players to strike out ever, but still elite. He finished his career with 1,091 walks and 376 strikeouts in 10,762 plate appearances.
Tyler Bashlor, pitcher for the 2020 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the New York Mets out of South Georgia College in 2013. He spent that first season with Kingsport of the short-season Appalachian League, where he had a 5.74 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in 15.1 innings over 13 relief appearances. Bashlor didn’t pitch for the next two years. He had Tommy John surgery in mid-May of 2014. He ended up having some minor setbacks during his rehab in mid-2015, and never took the mound that season either. He returned in 2016 with Columbia of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he had a 2.50 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and 68 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. He moved up to St Lucie of the High-A Florida State League in mid-2016, where he had a 5.06 ERA in 5.1 innings over four appearances. Bashlor spent most of the 2017 season with St Lucie, going 2-2, 4.89, with ten saves, a 1.54 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 35 innings. He moved up to Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League that year for 12 games. He dominated at the higher level, throwing 14.2 scoreless innings, with and 0.75 WHIP and 23 strikeouts. He started 2018 in Binghamton, going 0-3, 2.63, with seven saves, a 1.08 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 24 innings. He skipped over Triple-A, then went right to the majors in late June, going 0-3, 4.22 in 32 innings over 24 games for the Mets, finishing with 25 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP.
Bashlor pitched 33 games for Syracuse of the Triple-A International League in 2019, going 3-2, 3.41 in 37 innings, with 37 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. He also pitched 24 games with the Mets that year, putting up a 6.95 ERA, 20 strikeouts and a 1.73 WHIP in 22 innings. He pitched five games in the Dominican winter league during the 2019-20 off-season, allowing one run in five innings, while striking out eight batters. The Pirates purchased his contract from New York on August 2, 2020, without him appearing in a game for the Mets that year. He pitched eight games for the Pirates during that shortened/delayed, giving up eight runs in 8.1 innings. He was released in April of 2021, though he rejoined the Pirates in Triple-A with Indianapolis, where he spent the entire season. Bashlor had a 2.39 ERA, six saves and 45 strikeouts in 37.2 innings over 37 appearances for Indianapolis. He became a free agent after the season, then signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins in March of 2022. He pitched just eight innings over eight games in the minors during the 2022 season, with seven of those appearances coming with St Paul of the International League. He walked nine batters in his abbreviated time, leading to a 2.00 WHIP. He suffered an elbow strain in May, then got released as soon as he was activated off of the injured list in mid-July. He has not signed since. He has a 0-6, 5.78 big league record, 51 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP in 62.1 innings over 56 appearances.
Keone Kela, pitcher for the 2018-20 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the 29th round in 2011 out of high school by the Seattle Mariners. He went Everett Community College instead, where he was drafted in the 12th round in 2012 by the Texas Rangers. He didn’t get in a lot of time during that first season, posting a 1.59 ERA, an 0.71 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings over nine appearances in the rookie level Arizona League. He pitched at three different levels in 2013, throwing a total of 39 innings over 27 games. His best work came at his highest level that season, when he posted a 2.41 ERA in 18.2 innings with Hickory of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Kela also made 12 appearances for Spokane of the short-season Northwest League, and well as three games back in the Arizona League. Between all three stops, he had a 5-4, 3.36 record, with 52 strikeouts and a 1.49 WHIP. He pitched briefly in the Arizona Fall League after the season, throwing 8.2 innings without an earned run, finishing with ten strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP. He then spent time in Venezuela during winter ball, where he allowed one run over six innings, with an 0.67 WHIP and eight strikeouts. Kela pitched eight games for Myrtle Beach of the High-A Carolina League in 2014, and 36 games for Frisco of the Double-A Texas League. He combined to go 2-2, 2.02, with ten saves, a 1.27 WHIP and 68 strikeouts in 49 innings. With no Triple-A experience, he began the 2015 season in the majors, going 7-5, 2.39, with 68 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP in 60.1 innings over 68 relief appearances.
Kela missed nearly three full months of the 2016 season due to elbow surgery in April. After four scoreless rehab appearances, he managed to put together a 5-1 record that year, despite a 6.09 ERA in 34 innings over 35 games. He struck out 45 batters, while posting a 1.38 WHIP. A shoulder problem sidelined him for a time during the 2017 season. He went 4-1, 2.79 in 39 games that year, picking up two saves, to go along with 51 strikeouts and an 0.91 WHIP in 38.2 innings. He started the 2018 season by going 3-3, 3.44 in 36.2 innings over 38 outings. He had 24 saves, a 1.15 WHIP and 44 strikeouts. The Pirates acquired him at the trade deadline for two minor league prospects, Taylor Hearn and Sherten Apostel. After the trade, Kela had a 2.93 ERA, an 0.98 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 15.1 innings over 16 games. During the 2019 season, he went 2-0, 2.12 in 32 games, with 33 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP in 29.2 innings. Once again he missed a stretch of time due to a shoulder injury. He pitched just three games during the shortened 2020 season, allowing one run in two innings. Forearm tightness cost him a majority of the season, though he started late due to a positive COVID test.
Kela became a free agent after the 2020 season, then signed with the San Diego Padres, where he pitched 12 games in 2021. He had a 5.06 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 10.2 innings, before needing Tommy John surgery in mid-May. He signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with them knowing he would miss a majority of the season. He returned in late July, but he only pitched in the minors before being released at the end of August. He signed immediately with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though he remained at Triple-A, going from Reno (Diamondbacks) to Oklahoma City (Dodgers), while staying in the Pacific Coast League. He had a 4.82 ERA, 17 walks, 20 strikeouts and a 1.66 WHIP in 18.2 innings over 19 appearances. He signed to play in Japan for the 2023 season. Through his first seven seasons in the majors, he is 23-13, 3.33 in 243 appearances, all in relief. He has 28 saves and 279 strikeouts in 227.1 innings.
Babe Phelps, catcher for the 1942 Pirates. While with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1935 until 1941, Phelps was a strong hitting catcher who made three All-Star appearances. Twice he batted over .360 in a season, while compiling a .315 average in 581 games with Brooklyn. His time with the Pirates was brief and a bit rocky. Phelps started off in pro ball at 22 years old in 1930, playing for Hagerstown of the Class-D Blue Ridge League, where he hit .376 in 115 games, with 38 doubles, 15 triples and 19 homers. He moved up one level in 1931, when he put up a .408 average, 30 doubles, nine triples and 15 homers in 115 games, while playing in the Class-C Middle Atlantic League for a Hagerstown franchise that moved twice during the season. That performance earned him a brief look with the Washington Senators in September of 1931. He went 1-for-3 at the plate in three games during his first big league cup of coffee. Phelps played for Youngstown of the Class-B Central League in 1932, where he put up a .373 average, to go along with 47 doubles, eight triples and 26 homers in 135 games. He played for Albany of the Double-A International League in 1933, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. Phelps hit .293 in 122 games that year, with 16 doubles, 12 triples and ten homers. That performance earned him a trip to the majors with the Chicago Cubs in September. He didn’t get much of a chance in his second trial, going 2-for-7 with two RBIs in three games, though he remained in the majors at that point through the 1942 season.
Phelps was a backup catcher to Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett in 1934. Phelps played just 44 games, with eight starts all year. He hit .286/.296/.500 in 71 plate appearances, with seven runs, nine extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. He was selected off waivers by the Dodgers in January of 1935. He got into 47 games during that first season with Brooklyn. He had a .364 average over 121 at-bats, with 17 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs and a .986 OPS. He was serving as a backup to Hall of Fame manager Al Lopez, who was a top notch catcher during his playing days. Phelps began to play more often in July, but that didn’t last long. In the cruelest of ironies, a foul ball off of the bat of Gabby Hartnett on July 22nd broke his thumb and ended his season. The guy who kept him on the bench with the Cubs, put him back on the bench for the season with the Dodgers. It was a minor setback in the long run, as Phelps got a bigger role in 1936. He responded with a .367 average in 115 games (67 starts), finishing with 36 runs, 30 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs and a .920 OPS in 349 plate appearances. That performance led to an 18th place finish in the MVP voting.
Phelps batted .313 over a career high 121 games (111 starts) in 1937. He had 42 runs, 47 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and an .826 OPS, while setting a career best with 37 doubles. His 1938 season was limited due to a fractured thumb suffered on July 1st, which kept him out of action for the next 46 days. He batted just .255 after returning, finishing the year with a .308 average, 33 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs and an .836 OPS in 66 games. He was named an All-Star that year, but could not participate in the game. Phelps was an All-Star again in 1939, when he had a .285 average, with 33 runs, 29 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs in 98 games, finishing with a career low .754 OPS. He received his third straight All-Star selection in 1940, when he batted .295 in 118 games, while setting career highs with 47 runs scored, 13 homers and 61 RBIs. His .841 OPS that year was the best of his career after his huge 1936 season.
Phelp’s last season in Brooklyn was marred by health problems, injuries and a suspension, leading him to play just 16 games in 1941. He had a .233 average, though some power in that abbreviated time led to a .791 OPS. The Pirates acquired him a four-for-one deal on December 12, 1941, in exchange for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan. It was a deal that worked out awful for the Pirates, though they were able to get some value out of Phelps. He platooned at catcher once again with Al Lopez in 1942. Phelps hit .284 in 95 games that season, with 21 runs, 11 doubles, nine homers, 41 RBIs and a .785 OPS. He was put on the voluntary retired list by baseball in April of 1943 for failing to sign his contract for that season within ten days after the start of the schedule. The Pirates tried trading him in May, but the commissioner held up the deal due to his status. They finally dealt Phelps to the Philadelphia Phillies, along with cash, in exchange for first baseman Babe Dahlgren on December 30, 1943. Phelps never reported to the Phillies, instead deciding to retire after 11 seasons in the majors. In his career, he batted .310 in 726 games, with 239 runs, 143 doubles, 54 homers, 345 RBIs and an .835 OPS. Defensive metrics rate him as a slightly above average catcher in his early year, and slightly below average in the later years. His career was worth 13.0 WAR.
Piggy Ward, left fielder for the 1891 Pirates. He made his Major League debut just after his 16th birthday, playing one game for the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers (Phillies). Six years later he returned to the majors, this time playing seven games for the 1889 Quakers. In between that time, he bounced around teams in Pennsylvania. Ward was born in Chambersburg, PA and lived out his later years in Hollidaysburg, PA, so he was able to land jobs with many local/in-state clubs throughout his career in pro ball. His one game for the Quakers in 1883 was his pro debut, and also his only pro game before 1887. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in that game. He was described as being very slow and weak at the bat, but he played a good game at third base. He next showed up in 1887, seeing time with Johnstown of the Pennsylvania State Association (15 games) and Shamokin of the Central Pennsylvania League (45 games). Ward had a .262 average and four extra-base hits with Johnstown. His at-bats total is unavailable for Shamokin, but we know that he had 21 runs, 49 hits and six extra-base hits. He played in the Central Pennsylvania League in 1888 with Shenandoah (no stats available), as well as Allentown of the Central League, where he had a .266 average and 28 steals in 30 games. He was being called one of the top fielders at third base during that time. Ward had a .309 average, 34 runs and 37 stolen bases over 50 games for Hamilton of the International League in 1889. He also had a .301 average and 34 runs in 30 games for New Orleans of the Southern League, where he was playing when picked up by the Quakers for the second time in his career. They agreed on June 4th to pay him $300 per month for the rest of the season. He also saw time with York of the Middle States League in 1889, though no stats are available.
Ward’s big league time in 1889 did not go well. He hit .160/.160/.200 in 25 plate appearances, with no runs or walks. He had a double and four RBIs. When Philadelphia tried him in the outfield, it was said afterwards that he had no business being out there. Interestingly enough, when the Quakers signed him, there was no mention of his earlier time with the team. Ward split the 1890 season between Spokane of the Pacific Northwest League and Galveston of the Texas League, hitting a combined .357 in 116 games, with 145 runs scored, 26 doubles, 16 triples and six homers. He stole 82 bases. The 1891 season saw him playing for four minor league teams in four different leagues, including a return trip to Spokane. He bounced around a lot during his career, playing for five different Major League teams in six seasons and at least 30 different minor league teams during his 21-year career. He hit .412 in his limited time with Spokane in 1891, collecting eight runs, three doubles, three triples and eight steals in 12 games. He also saw unknown time with Walla Walla of the Pacific Interstate League and Sacramento of the California League. He joined the Pirates for a brief six-game trial in late August, with all five of his starts in left field. It was said that owner J. Palmer O’Neil thought highly of Ward and purchased his contract from Minneapolis of the Western Association on August 8, 1891. Ward had a .358 average, 56 runs and 30 steals in 54 games for Minneapolis at the time. O’Neil, along with his business partners with the Pirates, tried to purchase the Minneapolis team outright, after it was revealed that they were near the point of folding due to finances.
Ward returned his signed contract to the Pirates days before he arrived with the club. It was well after he was expected to arrive, taking extra time to get to them from Minneapolis. That decision to arrive late likely cost him a lot of money. Ward was originally signed to replace third baseman Charles Reilly, but Reilly started hitting the ball well just before Ward arrived. It was revealed that Ward stopped at his home in Altoona for a few days before reporting to the Pirates. He didn’t play right away because he had a sore back “from a few days earlier” according to the August 24th Pittsburgh Press. He ended up coming off the bench late to play center field in his debut on August 25th. On August 26th, it was said that Ward would play third base and Reilly would go out to right field. That didn’t happen, but Ward did debut in left field that day in his first start with the Pirates. He had three hits the next day, then two hits and two runs on August 29th. He played his final game on August 31st, going 0-for-4 at the plate.
Ward hit .333 for the Pirates in 18 at-bats with three runs, six singles, two RBIs and three stolen bases. The local newspaper at the time was critical of his defense, suggesting he should play third base because he was too slow to cover ground in left field. However, they did like the hitting that he added to the team during his brief stay. His time with the team ended due to illness, which came on just as Reilly’s bat cooled off. Reilly ended up hitting just .219 (with a .561 OPS) in 1891. Ward was released after he couldn’t come to an agreement with the team on his salary. They offered to pay him half of his salary while he was out of action due to illness, but he wanted his full paycheck through the end of October, so the club gave him his release instead, which came with ten days pay at the full rate. His defense was often maligned outside of Pittsburgh, with numerous disparaging remarks saying that he could hit well, but couldn’t field at all. The July 23, 1893 St Louis Dispatch probably summed up his defense the best when they said “Ward shows the happiest faculty for muffing, fumbling and wild throwing from any man masquerading in a league uniform and drawing a salary”.
After leaving Pittsburgh, Ward batted .290 in 56 games for the 1892 Baltimore Orioles, one of three teams he played for that season, though his only big league stop. He had 28 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, ten steals and a .795 OPS that year. His minor league time was split between 51 games with Milwaukee of the Class-A Western League (highest level of the minors at the time) and one game with Altoona of the Class-B Pennsylvania State League. He hit .309 in those 52 games with 51 runs, 24 extra-base hits and 39 steals. He then split the 1893 season between the Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, hitting .271 in 53 games that year, with 55 runs, nine extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, 31 steals and a .752 OPS. He also managed to play a total of 48 games for three minor league teams that season, including a return to New Orleans for 29 games, and a brief stop near his home with Altoona for 14 games. He’s credited with a .325 average and 45 runs during his short time in New Orleans. He hit .382 for Altoona, with 20 runs and six extra-base hits. He hit .333 in five games for Harrisburg of the Pennsylvania State League as well.
Ward finished out his big league career with the 1894 Washington Senators, where he hit for a .303 average, with 86 runs, 18 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 80 walks, 41 steals and an .821 OPS in 98 games. That was a huge year for offense in baseball, so his offensive explosion was in line with the rest of the league. That 1894 season was the first time in his career that he played for one team all year. He repeated that feat the next year with Scranton of the Class-A Eastern League, where he hit .357 in 104 games, with 96 runs, 29 extra-base hits and 27 steals. He played for Scranton and Toronto of the Eastern League in 1896 (no stats available for the league/season), then spent all of 1897 and 1898 with Lancaster of the Class-B Atlantic League. Stats aren’t available for the latter season, but he hit .280 in 1897, with 105 runs, 30 doubles, seven triples and 45 steals in 129 games. He split 1899 between 94 games with Lancaster (then bumped up to a Class-A league), and a stint with Mansfield of the Interstate League. His Mansfield stats aren’t available, but he did well with Lancaster, where he had a .357 average, 82 runs, 29 doubles, 15 triples, two homers and 17 steals. Over his final six seasons (1900-1905), Ward played for eight teams in eight leagues, including stops in Lancaster again, three seasons with Butte in two different leagues, and parts of two seasons with Birmingham of the Southern League. He batted over .300 in all three seasons with Butte, playing a total of 334 games in the city.
Ward spent 1900 with Worcester and Hartford of the Eastern League, as well as Binghamton of the Class-C New York State League. No stats are available from that year. He hit .278 over 91 games with Norwich of the Class-F Connecticut State League in 1901, where he had 13 doubles, no triples and two homers. He batted .332 over 118 games for Butte of the Class-B Pacific Northwest League in 1902, with 24 doubles, 12 triples and a homer. Butte moved to the Class-A Pacific National League in 1903. Ward had a .317 average over 126 games that year, with 41 extra-base hits, including 36 doubles. He had a .331 average and 30 extra-base hits over 90 games with Butte in 1904. He also hit .346 in 16 games with Birmingham of the Class-A Southern League that year. He hit .283 over 16 games for Birmingham in 1905. He also had a .137 average in 44 games with Charleston of the Class-C South Atlantic League that year, while seeing an unknown amount of time with Lancaster of the Tri-State League.
While he did an excellent job of getting on base in the majors (.419 OBP), Ward hit just one big league home run. He hit .286 over 221 games in the majors, with 172 runs, 40 extra-base hits, 90 RBIs and 86 steals. He also had 156 walks and 73 strikeouts. His minor league stats are far from complete at this time, with a few seasons totally missing and others incomplete, but he is still credited with over 1,600 minor league hits. His first name was Frank. His nickname came from a combo of his weight, running and the way he chatted up the game in the coaching box, with one early source saying he sounded like a catarrhal cow. As an interesting side note, he was said to have a wiry frame and weigh 159 pounds (5’9″) when he was acquired by Philadelphia in 1889, but his playing weight was 196 pounds or more later in his career.
On this date in 1937, The Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman/right fielder Earl Browne to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for pitcher Joe Bowman. Browne was a September call-up for the Pirates in both 1935 and 1936. He was 26 years old at the time of the trade. He hit .273/.310/.400 in 17 total games for the Pirates over two season. Bowman was also 26 years old. He was coming off of a season in which he went 9-20, 5.04 in 203.2 innings. It was his fourth season in the majors, and he had a 21-35 career record. The trade worked out decent for the Pirates, in that they got five seasons out of Bowman. He had a 33-38, 4.35 record in 629.2 innings for Pittsburgh. He pitched 134 times, with 78 of those coming as a starter. Browne was a regular for the Phillies in 1937, playing all three outfield positions and first base. He hit .292 that year, with 42 runs, 28 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs in 105 games. The Phillies sold him to the St Louis Cardinals just over a month into the 1938 season, then he never played in the majors again. He hit .257/.304/.311 in 21 games for the Phillies prior to the trade.
The 1903 Season Opener
On April 16, 1903, the Pirates played their season opener against the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh won the last two National League pennants (1901-02), and they looked to make it three in a row. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the 1903 season wouldn’t just end with an National League pennant. The Pirates would go on to play a postseason series against the the American League champions Boston Americans, in what would be the first modern day World Series. The Pirates opened up the 1903 season with an easy 7-1 win against the Reds, on their way to sweeping the four-game series. The starting lineup for the Pirates that day was as follows:
CF Ginger Beaumont
LF Fred Clarke
3B Tommy Leach
SS Honus Wagner
1B Kitty Bransfield
RF Jimmy Sebring
2B Claude Ritchey
C Ed Phelps
P Deacon Phillippe
That same lineup would start game one of the World Series, with the only change being Ritchey and Sebring were switched in the order. Here is the Opening Day boxscore courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
We also have a Game Rewind feature from the time the 1885 Alleghenys, while still in the American Association, played a great exhibition game against the Buffalo Bisons of the National League