This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: May 14th, Six Hits for Jake Stenzel

Only one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, and he played just one big league game. We also have a manager who stuck around for six seasons, as well as an impressive hitting feat from before the turn of the century.

The Player

Drew Rader, pitcher for the Pirates on July 18, 1921. Before he signed with the Pirates, he was a star pitcher for Syracuse University, claimed by some to be the best amateur pitcher around as a freshman. Prior to enrolling in college, Pittsburgh tried to sign the young pitcher, who was said to be equally strong at pitching with either hand, although he was known as “Lefty”.  The Pirates upped the offer to Rader after his first college season, asking him to leave school and join the team for Spring Training in 1921. He had some semi-pro experience in 1920, but his pro career began in the majors after making the team out of Spring Training. Rader was getting a lot of positive press for his spring performance, though he had an outing on March 25th that was forgettable in an intrasquad game. He allowed four runs on ten hits in five innings, while facing a lineup filled mostly with guys who were sent to the minors that year, including Pie Traynor. It turned out that Rader had it in his contract that he wouldn’t be sent to the minors, so he really wasn’t competing for a spot. He was with the Pirates for a few months before he finally got to pitch in a game that counted. He roomed with another rookie named Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse, a full-blooded American Indian. The two were said to be close friends by early June

Rader finally got into a game on July 18th, although it took a 12-1 deficit late in the game to actually get him off the end of the bench. He pitched two scoreless innings against the New York Giants that day, giving up a single in each frame. In an exhibition game six days later, Rader pitched a complete game against a minor league team from Rochester. He allowed ten runs, but got the win when the Pirates put up 15 runs. It was said after the game that he pitched the entire game with a back injury that occurred days earlier while catching fly balls in the outfield. He took the loss in a game against top collegiate players on August 21st, though he allowed just two runs in five innings. Rader was used often as a batting practice pitcher, which is what he was doing when he suffered an ankle injury after getting hit with a liner on August 26th. The injury would be the end of his Major League career, and his career as a pro player was almost over as well. He only pitched one game in the minors in 1922 with the Reading Aces of the International League. Rader was allowed to leave the Pirates before they left for St Louis for the final five games of the 1921 season. That was partially due to the fact that teams often left extra players home to save on travel costs, but Rader also needed to have his tonsils removed. It turned out that they were bothering him for his final month with the team, and along with the ankle injury, it prevented him from doing any pitching. It was said in the local papers that he would enroll back in Syracuse for the fall once he returned home.

On February 4, 1922, the Pirates optioned Rader to Minneapolis of the Double-A American Association. Minneapolis turned him over to a team from St Joseph of the Class-A Western League, and in May that team returned him to the Pirates, so he was actually back in Pittsburgh for a short time in 1922 without getting into a game. He was sent to Reading for one game, only to be returned to Pittsburgh because he couldn’t get into pitching shape. He asked for his release after leaving Reading, but the Pirates wouldn’t grant it to him, so he left the team to play semi-pro ball. That led to him being put on the Major League ineligible list. He coached high school baseball and played semi-pro ball in 1923, getting moved from the ineligible list to the voluntarily retired list, though the Pirates refused to give up his rights. He became the assistant baseball coach at Syracuse in 1924, and then he played semi-pro ball when the college season ended. He returned to action in 1925 with Williamsport of the New York-Penn League on loan from the Pirates with the understanding that they would purchase his contract if he pitched well. He lasted exactly a week before he was released by Williamsport due to poor pitching. He played semi-pro ball again in 1926, before appendicitis ended his season early. There’s no record of him pitching after that surgery.

The Manager

Horace Phillips, manager of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1884 until 1889. He was a minor league player/manager during the first season (1877) that minor league ball existed, seeing time with two of the three League Alliance teams in Philadelphia (one was called “Athletic” and the other just went by Philadelphia). He also managed the Hornellsville team in the same league. Phillips was a player/manager for Hornellsville of the International Association in 1878, while also playing in the same league with the Binghamton Cricket (mainly referred to as just “Cricket” without the city name). After two years in the minors, he got the job as manager of the 1879 Troy Trojans, who were in their first season of existence in the National League. Troy was the worst team in the National League that year, and Phillips lost his job after 47 games to veteran third baseman Bob Ferguson, who did no better at the helm of the team. Troy finished 19-56 on the season, with Phillips compiling a 12-34 record. He returned to the minors as a player/manager in 1880 with Baltimore and Rochester of the National Association, then he was just a player in 1881 with Philadelphia of the Eastern Championship Association, which was his last year as an active player. He was a manager of a team in Philadelphia in 1882, when talk of forming a second Major League began. He was instrumental in getting the American Association off of the ground, but he was without a job in the league during the inaugural season in 1882. Phillips managed the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association to a sixth place finish in 1883, placing them 1.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the standings.

Phillips began the 1884 season managing in the minors. While at the helm of a team from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Northwestern League, he led them to a first place finish with a 48-13 record. At the same time, the Alleghenys were changing managers rapidly during their season, going through four men, including the aforementioned Bob Ferguson, before they hired Phillips to finish out the year. He brought some of his own players with him from Grand Rapids, and made wholesale changes, but they went just 9-24 under his direction. They finished in tenth place with a 30-78 record (should be 31-78), which gave them a .278 winning percentage that stands as the third worst season in franchise history. Despite the record, Pittsburgh chose to stick with him. The 1885 Alleghenys had a huge influx of talent, and they were players familiar to Phillips. When the Columbus Buckeyes franchise folded after the 1884 season, Pittsburgh bought most of their players. The move merged a 30-78 Pittsburgh team with a second place (69-39) Columbus team, making the Alleghenys an instant contender.

Phillips led the Alleghenys to a 56-55 finish in 1885, their first winning season in the franchise’s fourth year of existence. They would get much better the next year, finishing in second place with a record of 80-57, which helped lead to the team moving from the American Association to the National League prior to the 1887 season. Phillips remained at the helm of Pittsburgh for two more full seasons, leading the club to sixth place (out of eight teams) finishes each year. He had a 55-69 record in 1887, and a 66-68 record in 1888. He managed the club through the middle of July of 1889, but began making odd decisions off of the field with his finances. He received a salary from the team, as well as part of the profits, which amounted to a decent amount of money. However, he began to spend money like someone who was much more wealthier. He was relieved of his managerial duties and sent back home. His doctor diagnosed him with paresis, brought on by overwork. He said that Phillips has been in a slow decline for the last year. It was also said that his managerial career was over, and that assessment was correct. Phillips was committed to an insane asylum a short time later and passed away in 1896. His final managerial record with the Alleghenys was 294-316 in six seasons. His only minor league playing records available are from four games during the 1880 season. He’s credited with going 5-for-20, with five singles and four runs.

The Hitter

On this date in 1896, Jake Stenzel collects six hits in one game for the Pirates. Pittsburgh had their bats working overtime against the Boston Beaneaters that day, finishing the day with 20 runs on 27 hits. He had two hits the day before his big game. Stenzel collected another four hits on the day after his big game, giving him 12 hits in 15 at-bats over a three-game span. Despite the streak, and the fact he hit .361 on the season, Stenzel still finished second on the team in batting by .001 to Elmer Smith. Stenzel would be traded away by the Pirates at the end of the 1896 season, even though he was clearly a star hitter. The Pirates wanted improved defense, but the deal did not work out well, even with Stenzel ending up out of the majors by 1899.

The mound opponent for the Pirates that day in 1896 was Cozy Dolan, who would make just three more starts in his career. He returned to the majors in 1900 after a three-year layoff and played another 798 games as a decent hitting outfielder. He is not to be confused with the Cozy Dolan that played outfield for the 1913 Pirates. A popular practice back in that era was to give the same nickname to a new player with the same last name as an older player. It sounds understandable (unoriginal as well), until you realize that two pitchers with the last name Young got the nickname “Cy” in the 1901-1910 era. Both players (Irv and Harley) pitched for the Pirates, and they were once traded for each other.

Dolan was removed after allowing two hits in the fifth inning, then Jim Sullivan was brought on. Dolan allowed nine runs, while Sullivan was tagged with 11 runs. Stenzel was 6-for-6 with six singles and three runs scored. Each of the 2-6 hitters in the lineup for the Pirates scored three runs. Elmer Smith had a nice game as well, going 2-for-3 with three walks. Bobby Lowe, who would later play for the Pirates, stole second, third and home during one trip around the bases.

The Game

The New York Yankees visited Forbes Field on this date in 1962 for an exhibition game and a home run derby. The derby didn’t go well, as two star players “begged out” of the contest, then ended up playing in the game. Rookie Bob Veale tossed a complete game, which is only impressive for back then because it was an exhibition game. Here are the game details.

You can also check out another May 14th game recap from the 1975 season, in a game that took extra innings to decide.

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