Born on this date in 1886 was the first Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher to throw a no-hitter, Nick Maddox, who was with the team from 1907-1910. He had gone 13-10 in the minors in 1907 pitching better than the record indicates when the Pirates signed him and brought him to the majors. He pitched a shutout in his major league debut on September 13, won his second start just three days later and exactly a week after his major league debut he threw a no-hitter over the Brooklyn Dodgers, winning 2-1. He finished his rookie season 5-1 0.83 in six starts, all complete games. The following season he established himself as a star, going 23-8 2.28 for the 2nd place Pirates.
The Pirates went to the World Series in 1909 and while Maddox only won 13 games during the regular season, he pitched well enough in game three of the series to earn the win. The Pirates won 8-6 that day but just one run was earned for Maddox, who threw a complete game. The Pirates in 1910 had a deep pitching staff and Maddox was 7th on the depth charts for the rotation. He made just seven starts all year, went 2-3 3.40 in 87 innings. The next season he was down in the minors where he would play four more season, never returning to the majors despite a record of 43-20 2.29 through age 23.
Also born on this date in 1862 was one of the fastest players in team history, Billy Sunday, who played for Pittsburgh from 1888 until 1890, when he retired to became an evangelist. Sunday played his first five seasons for the Chicago White Stockings who sold him for $2,000 to the Alleghenys in January of 1888. He was a reserve player with Chicago but the Alleghenys made him the everyday center fielder and he played the position great, picking up assists, covering tons of ground while also posting a well above average fielding percentage. He had blazing speed but didn’t get on base enough to fully take advantage of it. Still, getting his first full season of action, he was able to pick up 71 stolen bases despite a subpar .256 on base percentage.
In 1889 Sunday got on base at a .307 clip and despite playing just 81 games, he stole 47 bases and scored 62 runs. Back to full time the next season when a third major league(the Player’s League) was around that opened up more playing time, Sunday hit .257 with 56 steals in 85 games for the woeful Alleghenys team. In late August, with the team needing money to help pay the payroll due to dismal crowds that refused to watch a team that would finish 23-113, the Allegheys traded Sunday to the Philadelphia Phillies for two marginal players and $1,100 cash. Luckily for Pittsburgh, a higher calling beckoned Sunday and the trade did not hurt them in the long run. Following the 1890 season he quit baseball to become an evangelist, becoming world famous, giving sermons up until his death in 1935.
Born on this date in 1897 was longtime Pirates catcher Johnny Gooch, who played for the Bucs from 1921 to 1928. He played 551 games over those eight seasons, only twice was he the number one starter behind the plate, most years he split the duties. He started his minor league career in 1916 but quit the following two seasons to help his family out during the war. When he returned in 1919 he made himself into a major league baseball player with hard work, going from a reserve for a low-level minor league team to the major leagues in just over two years. In his first full season in 1922 he played 105 games, hitting .329 and struck out just 15 times in 401 plate apperances. He played between 66 and 86 games each of the next four seasons, hitting a high of .298 in 1925 when he helped the Pirates to their second World Series title. Gooch helped the Pirates back to the WS in 1927 hitting .258 with 48 RBI’s in 101 games although in six games over the two series, he never got a postseason hit. Johnny was traded to the Boston Braves in mid-season 1928. He played in the minors following his big league career up until 1942 when he was still catching at the age of 44.
Finally, born on this date in 1868 was pitcher Bill Phillips, who was part of the disaster that was the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, a team that went 23-113. Phillips was playing in the minors for the first time in 1890 when the Pirates needed pitching help in August to get them through the season. He wasn’t quite ready for the majors yet but he was a local boy and had an arm that worked so he was good enough. He made his debut on August 11 and won his first start 6-4 over the Chicago White Stockings. It went downhill from there as he lost his next nine starts while allowing double digit runs in seven of those games. He returned to the minors, resurfacing with the Cincinnati Reds in 1895, then again from 1899-1903. He had a 1-9 7.57 record with the Alleghenys but was able to post a 69-67 record with the Reds.