On this date in 1906, Hall of Famer Joe Cronin was born. He signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 1925 and played two seasons for the Pirates(1926-27) making his debut on April 29, 1926 at the age of nineteen. He was sent to the minors in early May of that 1926 season after just four games. When he returned the majors in late August he almost immediately became the team’s starting second baseman in the middle of a pennant race. The Pirates would lose the division to the Cardinals but Cronin played well, hitting .265 in 38 games. In 1927 the Pirates got Cronin into just 12 games and hit .227 in 22 at-bats.
Just prior to the 1928 season started, the Pirates decided to sell Cronin to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association which obviously proved to be a bad idea. Just three months later the Washington Senators bought his contract and he was on the way to his Hall of Fame career. In 20 total seasons split between the Pirates, Senators and the Boston Red Sox, Cronin hit .301 over 2124 games. He was a seven time all-star despite the fact the all-star game wasn’t played until his 8th season in the majors. He was also a player-manager for 13 seasons and managed another two years, leading his teams to the AL pennant in 1933 and 1945.
Also born on this date were a couple of the original “Pirates” players. First was the original Charlie Morton born way back in 1854. He was a member of the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the first major league team in Pittsburgh history and the beginning point for the current Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. Morton was in the lineup for the first game in franchise history on May 2, 1882 which was also his major league debut. For the Alleghenys he batted .282 in 25 games while spending most of his time in center field. He finished the year as a member of the St Louis Brown Stockings and had just 2 hits in 32 at-bats. He played parts of two more seasons in the majors and hit .194 career in 88 games with no home runs. He managed three season in the majors and off and on in the minors until 1898.
The other original “Pirate” born on this date was Charles “Pop” Smith who was born in 1856. He was the opening day shortstop for the 1887 Alleghenys, the first year that Pittsburgh played in the National League. Smith joined the franchise in October 1884 when he was purchased from the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association and he stayed with the team until he was sold off in July of 1889. In his five seasons in Pittsburgh he hit just .220 over 557 games but he had very good speed and played strong defense in the middle of the diamond, splitting his time between SS and 2B. Smith was one of the first players born in Canada to play in the majors. He lasted 12 seasons in the majors playing 1112 games.
Finally, Frank Ringo (1860) Catcher for the 1885-86 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Ringo bounced around a lot during his brief career, playing for five teams in four years. He appeared in the National League during all four seasons and spent parts of three seasons in the American Association. Ringo began the 1885 season with Augusta in the minor leagues before moving on to the Detroit Wolverines. He joined the Alleghenys late and caught three games, going 2-for-11 at the plate. Detroit released him that season because of a drinking problem. In 1886, he played 15 games for Pittsburgh, splitting his time between first base and catcher. Those games at first base were the only ones he played there during his major league career. Ringo hit .214 with five RBIs in 56 at-bats for the 1886 Alleghenys. He finished that season with the Kansas City Cowboys in the National League. That was the end of his big league career. Ringo played two more seasons in the minors before his life came to a tragic ending. Just before Opening Day in 1889, Ringo committed suicide by ingesting a lethal amount of morphine.