Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and I take a look back at a very bad day for baseball in Pittsburgh, from many years ago. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look back at a game very similar to the one the current Pirates just played.
Ed Whitson (1955) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1977 until 1979. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Pirates in 1974, going to the Gulf Coast League that first year, where he went 1-4 4.30 in eight starts. Whitson moved up to A-ball the next year and really struggled, especially with command, walking 99 batters in 142 innings. By the next season, a level higher, he completely turned things around. Ed cut his ERA in half, down to 2.53 and he issued just 65 walks in 203 innings. That earned him a promotion to AAA, where he pitched well enough in 1977 to get a September call-up. Whitson got five appearances for the Pirates, including the start in the last game of the year. Going up against the Cubs on October 2nd, he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk.
He began the 1978 season back in AAA, getting recalled at the end of May and sent to the Pirates bullpen. Ed made 43 appearances, pitching a total of 74 innings with a 3.28 ERA. He actually pitched better than the ERA would indicate, as nearly half of the earned runs he allowed, came during two of those appearances. Whitson’s ERA in the other 41 appearances was just 2.05 in 70.1 innings. In 1979, he made the Pirates out of Spring Training. Ed was being used as a spot starter the first two months, then in June he made four starts. He had a 2-3 4.37 record in 57.2 innings on June 28th, when the Pirates traded him in a six player deal to the San Francisco Giants that brought Bill Madlock to Pittsburgh. Whitson would end up pitching another twelve seasons in the majors, finishing with 126 career wins, eight coming while with the Pirates. Seven times he won at least ten games and in 1980 he made the All-Star team.
Bud Culloton (1896) Pitcher for the 1925-26 Pirates. He went to Columbia University for two years, then played minor league ball for two seasons(1919-20) before retiring and returning to college, this time at Fordham. When he graduated school in 1924, he played semi-pro ball in the Paterson Industrial League before he joined the Pirates on July 26th, although he did not pitch a regular season game that season. He did however pitch in exhibition games including one right before he signed with the Pirates, a game in which he shutout Pittsburgh for nine innings before losing in the tenth. It was that game that convinced Pittsburgh to sign him. Bud was put on the list of players eligible for the 1924 postseason but the Pirates failed to win the National League pennant.
He was with the Pirates during the entire 1925 season, although he ended up pitching only 21 innings all year, with five of those innings coming during a start on the last day of the regular season. Bud won a complete game over the Washington Senators on July 6th. It was an exhibition game, although the Senators were the defending champs at the time and it turned out to be a preview of the 1925 World Series. He was again eligible for the postseason in 1925 but never got into the seven game series won by the Pirates. In 1926, he was being used even less, getting three appearances over the first two months, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings. After an outing on June 11th, in which he allowed four runs in one inning, the Pirates never used Culloton again, sending him to New Haven of the Eastern League. He finished that season in the minors, then never played pro ball again.
May 19, 1890
This date in 1890 was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose their game by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League, lost their game 16-3. For the National League team, it was the beginning of their downward spiral that resulted in the worst season in franchise history. Up to that point, the team had an 8-10 record, so what happened the rest of the season couldn’t have been predicted by the most pessimistic Pittsburgh fan. The 18-2 loss started an eleven game losing streak that would’ve been a twenty-three game losing streak if the Alleghenys weren’t able to pull out a 9-8 win against Boston on May 31st. They actually finished their season with a 7-82 run over their last ninety(one tie) games.
The Burghers weren’t anywhere near as bad as their crosstown rival. They had an 8-10 record after this game, then went on to lose another seven games in a row. Their season got much better though, going 52-51 the rest of the way, in the league’s only year of existence. That Player’s League team was basically the 1889 National League team, with most of the lineup jumping to the new league. Jake Beckley, Ned Hanlon, Pud Galvin, Al Maul, Harry Staley, Ed Morris, Bill Kuehne, Jocko Fields and Fred Carroll all jumped from the NL to the PL that year. The first three are in the Hall of Fame and Galvin, Staley and Morris made a combined 108 starts for the 1889 Alleghenys. Al Maul made four of the team’s other 26 starts.
Jolly Roger Rewind: May 19, 1981
Atlanta leftfielder Terry Harper led off the game by blooping Pirates starter Jim Bibby’s second pitch of the night off the end of his bat and into right field for a single. Twenty-seven batters later, Harper’s hit stood as the sole Braves’ baserunner in a 5-0 Pirates victory at Three Rivers Stadium.
Bibby, pitching just four days after Cleveland’s Len Barker threw the tenth perfect game in major league history,* nearly repeated the feat with a one-hit, no-walk complete-game shutout. He took only 93 pitches to finish off 28 Braves batters. Catcher Steve Nicosia praised Bibby’s control: “He didn’t throw his best fastball, his overpowering fastball. Don’t get me wrong, he still threw harder than 90 percent of all pitchers, but his big thing was control. Sometimes I’d set up outside of the plate and not have to move my glove.”
Bibby also contributed two doubles—one driving in a run—and one run scored to the Bucco effort.
* An accomplishment that prompted one sportswriter to wonder, “How could it have been a perfect game? It was in Cleveland.”
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Press game story
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.