On this date in 1972 the Pirates lost game five of the NLCS to the Cincinnati Reds by a 4-3 score. Not only was it the end to their season, it was also the end of a baseball career. This was the last game played by the great Roberto Clemente who died in a plane crash less than three months later. Clemente went 1-3 with a walk in the game. He collected his last career hit in the 1st inning, a single to CF off Don Gullett. In his last plate appearance he was intentionally walked. Roberto played his entire 18 year career with the Pirates, made 15 all-star teams and collected 3000 hits while batting .317 over 2433 games.
On this date in 1909 the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers in game three of the World Series by an 8-6 score. The game was played in front of 18,277 fans at Bennett Park in Detroit and with the victory the Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the series. Honus Wagner went 3-5 with two RBI’s while Ty Cobb collected two hits and drove in two runs of his own. The Pirates were led by pitcher Nick Maddox, who threw a complete game with just one of those six runs allowed being an earned run. Detroit’s starter, Ed Summers lasted just six batters as his defense made three errors behind him, leading to five unearned runs and just one out recorded.
Finally, born on this date way back in 1858 was an outfielder for the 1883 Pittsburgh Alleghenys with one of the best baseball names ever, Buttercup Dickerson. His real name was Lewis Pessano and many people don’t know it, but he was the first Italian-American baseball player in the majors leagues…..possibly. Another former Pirates player, Ed Abbaticchio, who made his debut in 1897 (which was 19 years after Dickerson’s first season) is sometimes identified as the first Italian baseball player because Dickerson’s Italian heritage has been questioned. Despite the surname (sometimes spelled Pisano) research, that included interviews with his direct descendents, has said that his last name actually is Dickerson and the Pessano name came as a tribute to the doctor that delivered him. In what may be an ironic twist, Buttercup is actually in the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame.
Whatever the story is on his heritage, he was still an interesting player in baseball history. Dickerson, just 23 at the time, was blacklisted from the National League after the 1881 season along with nine other players for questionable play or actions on or off the field. Many of the players were accused of throwing games for money but Dickerson was banned for “chronic drunkenness”. When he was reinstated he joined the Alleghenys, a team that played in the American Association for five seasons before joining the NL in 1887. Dickerson hit .249 over 85 games in 1883 while playing five different positions. He played just seven seasons in the majors but he managed to play for eight different teams in three different major leagues. He batted .300 in three different seasons but was still out of the majors by age 26. He played five more seasons in the minors, retiring in 1890.